Klaas Wynne

In the ultrafast chemical physics group (part of the Dynamics & Structure section of the School of Chemistry), we are interested in the structure and dynamics of liquids and solutions. We study peptides, proteins, and other biomolecules but treat them as amorphous blobs behaving much like liquids. We are especially interested in phase behaviour such as supercooling of liquids, folding transitions in peptides, nucleation of crystals from solution, and liquid-liquid and liquid-crystalline transitions. The experimental techniques we apply cover 18-orders of magnitude of dynamics range: from the femtosecond motion of molecules to the hour-long timescale of some phase transitions.

The group has a large number of national and international collaborators. These collaborators help with the theoretical description of the experiments or add experimental techniques to our arsenal such as other spectroscopies, neutron and x-ray scattering, chemical synthesis, zoology, etc. Finally, we are organising international scientific conferences such as the Ultrafast Chemical Physics meetings (next one planned for 2015) and the RSC Faraday Discussion meeting on ‘Mesostructure and Dynamics in Liquids and Solutions’ in Bristol (18-20 Sep 2013).

Klaas Wynne
University of Glasgow
School of Chemistry, WestCHEM
Joseph Black Building
University Avenue
Glasgow, G12 8QQ
United Kingdom
office: A4.11b
e: klaas.wynne at glasgow.ac.uk
t: +44 (141) 330 8522
lab: +44 (141) 330 7680/7678
skype: klaas.wynne

youtube: ucpgroup
chemistry profile

Mrs Alexis J Stevenson
Room A4-22
e: Alexis.Stevenson at glasgow.ac.uk
t: +44 (141) 330 2529

Map from Hillhead to JB building
Map to my office in Joseph Black

Check out open PhD and postdoctoral positions in the BCP group here

Liquid-liquid transition in triphenyl phosphite (TPP)

Animation of a liquid-liquid transition in triphenyl phosphite (TPP) taking place through nucleation as observed through phase-contrast microscopy (Joanna Mosses, 2013).


The femtosecond techniques we apply are terahertz time-domain spectroscopy (THz-TDS) and ultrafast optical Kerr-effect spectroscopy (OKE). The former measures a far-infrared spectrum and is sensitive to the tumbling motion of permanent dipoles. The latter measures an anisotropic Raman spectrum in the time-domain. Using these techniques, we can probe the dynamics of molecules in disordered matter from about 15 fs to nanoseconds and beyond. This covers motions from fast vibrations, librations, and cage rattling, through to molecular diffusion. The temperature dependent behaviour of these processes tells us about the underlying supramolecular structure and molecular complexity.

For example, in recent work we used OKE to study the effect of an enzyme (lysozyme) binding a substrate. We could show that the enzyme rings like a bell at terahertz frequencies and that this ringing motion is coupled to the binding. Other work involves (room temperature) ionic liquids, water, pre-nucleation, biomolecules, etc.


“Terahertz underdamped vibrational motion governs protein-ligand binding in solution”, Nature Comm. 5, 3999 (2014)


In the last few years, we have become especially excited by molecular-scale structure growing visible, literally. An example is the nucleation of crystals from solution: such crystals start life as nanometre scale molecular clusters that, through chance, grow to become macroscopic crystals. Phase transitions in the liquid also start on a molecular scale and grow to cause separation of phases. Understanding these phenomena is both basic science and of huge commercial importance.

With a confocal fluorescence microscope, we are studying phase separation directly. Fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) gives unique insight in the local properties of phases and the local molecular dynamics. Ultimately, we aim to control chemical matter by using lasers to push transitions to a desired state.

In recent work, we show a new way of thinking about crystallisation involving the concept of liquid-liquid phase separation leading to meta- and instabilities and rapid crystallisation. Unlike the common assumption that this will lead to ugly crystalline shapes, we show that this leads instead to new patterns of crystal growth. Other ultraslow work involves the study of insects using infrared spectroscopy.



Nematic liquid crystalline phase of 5CB

Nematic liquid crystalline phase of 5CB (35.4 C)

Mosquito in FTIR

Photo of a mosquito being analysed by near-infrared spectroscopy by undegraduate student Thomas Glew and postdoc Mario Gonzalez-Jimenez. Mosquito spectroscopy project involving Klaas Wynne (Chemistry), Dr Lisa Ranford-Cartwright (Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, GU), Dr Heather Ferguson (Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, GU), Dr Francesco Baldini (Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, GU) – spectroscopy of mosquitoes.


TPP crystals (November 2011)


Phases: crystals and a liquid crystalline phase (2014).

Also visit the web sites of the Dynamics & Structure grouping in the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow



  Creative Commons License

Open PhD and postdoctoral positions in the BCP group

Dynamics of Imidazolium Ionic Liquids from a Combined Dielectric Relaxation and Optical Kerr Effect Study: Evidence for Mesoscopic Aggregation

Find a PhD project in Wynne group

“Terahertz underdamped vibrational motion governs protein-ligand binding in solution”, Nature Comm. 5, 3999 (2014)