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Dr Daren Caruana
  • Reader in Physical Chemistry
  • Dept of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences
Research Summary

My research programme has a strong interdisciplinary character with two very distinct research strands which have a common basis in experimental electrochemistry. The first area is gas phase electrochemistry. The focus of this work has been to investigate the properties of gaseous plasma, a flame, using electrochemical methods. The prospect of using a gaseous electrolyte in which to make electrochemical measurements is the a motivating factor. 

My group at UCL was the first to make potentiometric measurements in flame plasma. This work was made possible through the construction of a two-compartment electrochemical flame cell composed of two individual flames, which was designed and built at UCL specifically for this work. With this method it is possible to quantify diffusion (junction) potentials for salt solutions of the same species when different concentrations are added to one of the flames; consequently an ionic and electron concentration gradient is created at the interface between the two flames (Electrochem. Comm., (2001), 3, 675-681). Experiments of Goodings et al. have, since our publication, supported our observations by analogous diffusion potential measurements, using a flame cell with a different configuration (Electrochemical  Communications, 4, (2002), 363-369).

A more detailed description of the physical basis of the potential difference measured in the flame electrochemical cell was published in PCCP as an invited article (Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., (2006), 8, 2797-2809). However, this work has a much broader application than potentiometric measurements in flames. The work has recently been extended to cyclic voltammetry in a flame, probing the reactions on the electrode surface using in situ laser Raman in collaboration with Prof. McMillan at UCL. This work has shown that copper oxide nanoparticles, deposited on the electrode can be electrochemically reduced to copper metal (Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2007, DOI:10.1039/b706660K). The 'holy grail' of this work is to perform dynamic cyclic voltammetry in the gas phase, which, when achieved will be a major breakthrough, and will be recognised as so in the wider chemistry and plasma physics community.

The other major strand of my research draws from my early career work concerned with the study of enzyme microelectrodes and the development of DNA hybridisation electrodes. This biological theme has been maintained in my research programme. Recently, I investigated the formation of sickle cell haemoglobin fibres at gold electrodes by the manipulation of oxygen partial pressures in a thin layer electrochemical cell (Analyst, (2007), 132(1), 27-33.). The fibre formation can be followed in real time, enabling the measurement of kinetics of polymerisation of proteins. The objective was to develop a general method to investigate protein aggregation into fibres controlled by electrochemistry. This work was been done in collaboration with Prof. Horton and Dr McKendry, Medicine and London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL. 

In addition I have long standing active collaborations with: Dr Enrique Millan Barros at Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela, Prof Maxim Kuznetsov at Institute of Structural Macrokinetics and Materials Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Chernogolovka, Russia and Prof Jürgen Janek at Institut für Physikalische Chemie, Justus-Liebig, Universitat Giessen, Germany.

I have presented over 50 invited seminars and conference presentations at UK and internationally meetings. My research is funded mainly through individual and collaborative grants from EPSRC, The Leverhulme Trust, Royal Society and some industrial funding (Element 6, Ion Science, Sherwod Scientific and Unipath).

2008 Reader in Physical Chemistry Chemistry UCL, United Kingdom
2004 – 2008 Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry Chemistry UCL, United Kingdom
1999 – 2004 Lecturer in Physical Chemistry Chenistry UCL, United Kingdom
1998 – 1999 Research Fellow Chemistry UCL, United Kingdom
1997 – 1998 Research Fellow Chemical Engineering University of Texas, United States
1994 – 1997 Postdoctoral Research Fellow Biomedical Sciences University of Malta, Malta
Academic Background
1994 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Physical Chemistry University of Southampton
1990 BSc Hons Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Biochemistry University of Warwick
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