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December Blog by Dr Ben Bardsley (Molecular Spectroscopy Group Secretary and NMR Spectroscopist)

posted 6 Dec 2016, 00:20 by Molecular Spectroscopy   [ updated 6 Dec 2016, 05:33 ]

What is ‘Molecular Spectroscopy’?  Well that’s easy isn’t it?  It’s spectroscopy applied to molecules – simple!  But of course it not as simple as that, nothing ever is. 

‘Spectroscopy’ itself has a very simple definition which is that it’s the study of the interaction between matter and light (light representing the electromagnetic spectrum).  Molecular Spectroscopy therefore is the interaction between molecules and light and that fits nicely with our original definition.  But the diversity that fits within this definition is great as I’ll go on to talk about.

There are the ‘classic’ molecular spectroscopies such as infrared, Raman and ultraviolet.  These exhibit diversity in themselves in that they involve either the scattering or absorption as different modes for obtaining information about molecular structure.  Then we have nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy which relies on magnetic fields as a means of inducing different energy levels which can be used to enable electromagnetic radiation to cause a transition which can be measured and which gives information in solution, or solid state about all manner of materials, organic and inorganic.  Then we have fluorescence spectroscopy, EPR spectroscopy, Terahertz spectroscopy, circular dichroism, vibrational circular dichroism, laser spectroscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy and so many more I don’t have space to list them all (my apologies if your favourite is not one of those listed. 

Those are the spectroscopies, but what about the molecular side of things?  Well applications for molecular spectroscopy are even greater than the techniques themselves.  Ranging from new inorganic materials to nanoparticles, to paintings from the old masters, pharmaceuticals, bulk chemicals, clinical diagnostics, security and again, so many more, the variety is infinite.  Spectroscopy can be run at the microscopic or macroscopic level, providing real time or offline data to give insight into almost any process you can think of. 

Molecular spectroscopy even goes beyond spectroscopy.  Mass spectrometry and ion mobility spectrometry, for example, are not even spectroscopies in the true sense of the word, going back to our original definition.  But these techniques fall squarely into the realm of ‘molecular spectroscopy; because of the overlap with all those other spectroscopies and the fact that they so beautifully complement them in delivering understanding in whatever field.

And what links all these techniques and applications?  Well the Molecular Spectroscopy Group does.  The Molecular Spectroscopy Group is interested in all these areas of science and the combination of many of these, looked at holistically and in partnership can be used to solve so many problems.  The power that comes with bringing these together is why a group spanning this breadth has such a role to play, alongside all those necessary technique-specific groups you may also be a member of.  It’s one of the things that makes it such an interesting group to be a part of and why, if you’re not a member already, I’d recommend that you join up and find out more…