The ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science extends a warm welcome to Dr Liam Hall, who will be joining the Centre in 2020 under his ARC DECRA Fellowship.
Director Paul Mulvaney noted that “this is an exciting new direction that links quantum science in the Physics School with solid state materials science in the School of Chemistry. It will create new tools for understanding hydrogen, the molecule of the 21st century.”
Hailing from a complementary background in quantum and condensed matter physics, Liam brings with him new expertise in the burgeoning field of quantum sensing, with the potential to enrich research programs at the interface of chemistry and physics. He has spent the last decade working with Professor Lloyd Hollenberg and Dr David Simpson at the UoM School of Physics to develop diamond-based ‘quantum sensors’ that use the quantum properties of crystallographic defects in diamond as sensors of magnetic resonance signals.
Liam will bring the capabilities he has developed across to the Centre at the UoM School of Chemistry, noting that “the fundamental quantum physics behind the development of these sensors has been the main focus of my PhD and postdoc years, so it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to bring them over to Chemistry and start applying them to other lines of research.”
Liam’s DECRA research program will address the challenge of in situ monitoring of chemical composition in microscopic reaction systems on timescales previously inaccessible to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques. If that sounds like a mouthful, think of it as a near real-time NMR spectrometer that you can put inside your chemical system.
Time-dependent monitoring of short-lived intermediate species and catalytic excited states will provide a new window into the relevant dynamic processes of reaction mixtures and nano-assembly systems. This research has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of many important chemical reaction mechanisms and pathways, and thus promises to catalyse further groundbreaking research in synthetic chemistry and biochemical fields.
Liam said: “One of the most exciting things about the move to the Centre is the chance to develop and apply quantum sensing techniques to investigating catalysts and metal-organic receptor materials for the chemical storage of hydrogen. Growing up on a farm and tinkering with diesel engines for most of my life has given me a pretty good perspective on the good and bad aspects of agricultural machinery and heavy-duty road transport. If I could contribute something towards cleaning up the fuels used in these sectors, and others, then that would be something very special to me.”
As outlined in the recent Briefing Paper: Hydrogen for Australia’s Future from The Hydrogen Strategy Group, chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, the production and storage of hydrogen via chemical means remains a major bottleneck to the realisation of a hydrogen industry within Australia. This strategic focus is both shared and spearheaded by the University (as outlined in the Australian Hydrogen Strategy), and key players such as CSIRO (National Hydrogen Roadmap) with whom Liam will be collaborating in his research.
When not writing grant applications or tripping over things in the lab, Liam’s other interests include surfing, gardening, and chasing after his three children in either the surf or the garden.