Much of our research focuses on understanding the behaviour of individual molecules when they become energised following absorption of light or collision with an electron, both very common processes. Advancing our knowledge of such molecular behaviour has widespread applications in areas including atmospheric chemistry, astrochemistry, industrial processes, analytical instrumentation, molecular structure determination, and molecular synthesis. Usually, the energised molecules undergo a variety of fragmentation processes. The basic physics of a fragmentation process determines the speed of each fragment and the direction in which it flies away from the other fragments, and if we can measure these speeds and directions then we can ‘reverse engineer’ the process to learn about the underlying physics. We have recently developed a new tool for recording this information, in the form of the Pixel Imaging Mass Spectrometry (PImMS) camera. By some measures the fastest camera in the world, the PImMS camera allows us to detect individual molecular fragments with a time resolution of nanoseconds, and is now being used around the world in a variety of experiments in the areas described above. I will present some of the science underlying the development of the camera, and will also highlight some of the new science made possible by the PImMS technology.
Claire Vallance is a Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Tutorial Fellow in Physical Chemistry at Hertford College, University of Oxford. She has a variety of research interests, including chemical reaction dynamics, applications of velocity-map and spatial-map imaging to mass spectrometry, and the development of laser spectroscopy techniques for microfluidics and chemical sensing applications, and is a co-inventor of the PImMS ultrafast imaging camera. In addition to her research activities, Claire is active in a wide range of teaching and outreach activities within the Department of Chemistry and Hertford College.