Chemistry Dept Research Groups - UC - Masters group Index

Masters Research Group

Welcome to the Masters Group Website

Our research focuses on:

Gas-Phase Molecular Structure

Our group determine the structures of small molecules both by experiment and by theory. The main experimental method used is electron diffraction and molecular-orbital calculations and other experimental data are used to aid the determination of a structure.
The group always welcomes the chance to determine the gas-phase structures of new molecules.

Chemistry never ceases to amaze, and we are always reading about new technologies and products – materials, medicines, chemicals with special properties. To make their work efficient, chemists need to be able to predict the properties of target molecules, and to understand the routes to these molecules, and the rates at which reactions will take place. Techniques for determining molecular structures are therefore of primary importance.

Nowadays computers can predict structures of many molecules accurately, and they may also model gas-phase reactions. However, the programs use standard information from experimental gaseous structures, so new, accurate information from gas-phase experiments is always required. There is a mass of gaseous structural information for stable molecules, but information about short-lived or unstable species is much harder to obtain. Data are scarce, although they are essential for modelling reaction pathways and thus predicting rates of reactions. My research is geared towards providing this information. Research areas include the structure determination of short-lived species using combined FVP-GED techniques, and the structure determination of stable radicals.

Short-lived species are generated using flash vacuum pyrolysis (FVP) techniques. The methodologies of FVP and GED have been combined in a new inlet system, and the unstable species are passed into the diffraction chamber where structural data is collected. Very-high temperatures are required for this work, as the short-lived species are usually generated at temperatures between 500 and 900 K.

Generating stable radicals from sterically loaded systems is in the very early stages of experimental investigation. The systems Z2R4 / ZR2 [Z = P or As, R = CH(SiMe3)2] provided the first known examples of molecules with relatively normal strong Z-Z bonds, which required no additional energy to break. The driving force for dissociation is the conformational change, which allows relaxation of the steric strain upon dissociation. This led to the term 'jack-in-the-box' molecules being applied to these systems. Other systems have been predicted to behave in this manner, although no experimental work has been carried out on them. Work is currently underway to examine the process of dissociation in other symmetric and also asymmetric systems using experimental and theoretical methods.

For information on how to collaborate, contact Dr Sarah Masters

We are always interested in hearing from potential graduate students and post-docs who might be interested in working with us. Prospective PhD students who are eligible for University scholarships (local students and international students, go to should email

Prospective postdoctoral fellows who may be eligible for external funding [] (note: you must be a NZ citizen or holders of a New Zealand Residence Class Visa) are also invited to get in contact.
  • Phone: +64 3 364 2100
    Fax: +64 3 364 2110
  • Department of Chemistry
    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800, Christchurch
    New Zealand
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