Dr Shengfu Yang

Dr Shengfu Yang

Professor in Physical Chemistry and NanoChemistry, FRSC, member EUAS

Head of the NanoChemistry Group

BSc (Tsinghua, China), MSc (DICP, China), PhD (USTC, China) 
Tel : +44 (0)116 252 2127
Email: sfy1@le.ac.uk

Research Group website: http://nanochem.org.uk/

Personal details

Recent Publications

  1. Shengfu Yang*, Cheng Feng, Daniel Spence, Elspeth Latimer, Andrew M. Ellis, A. Al Hindawi, Adrian Boatwright, Chris Binns, Davide Peddis, Kalliopi N. Trouhidou*, Nikolaos Ntallis, Marianna Vasilakaki, Liying Zhang, Yafei Zhang and Sarnjeet S. Dhesi, "Ferromagnetic nanoparticles with magnetic moments far exceeding the bulk limit", PNAS (under review).
  2. Julia A. Davies, Magnus W. D. Hanson-Heine, Nicholas A. Besley, Andrew Shirley, James Trowers, Shengfu Yang and Andrew M. Ellis*, “Dimers of Acetic Acid in Helium Nanodroplets”, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. (2019) doi: 10.1039/C8CP05934A.
  3. Berlian Sitorus, Charlotte Pughe, Arin Mizouri, Andrew M. Ellis and Shengfu Yang*, “Ion-Molecule Reactions of Organic Molecules with Noble Metal Atoms in Superfluid Helium Droplets”, AIP Conf. Proc. 2049, 020066 (2018).
  4. Kan Zhang, Zhikun Shang, Corey J. Evans, Jinyun Wang, Shengfu Yang*, “An Investigation of Atropisomerism in Ortho-Imide Substituted 1,3-Benzoxazine by Experimental NMR and DFT Calculations”, J. Phys. Org. Chem. (2018) doi: 10.1002/poc.3926.
  5. Kan Zhang, Zhikun Shang, Lu Han, Corey J. Evans, Jinyun Wang, Shengfu Yang* and Hatsuo Ishida*, “Benzoxazine Atropisomers: Intrinsic Atropisomerization Mechanism and Conversion to High Performance Thermosets”, Macromolecules 51, 7574−7585 (2018).
  6. Andreas Mauracher, Olof Echt, Andrew M. Ellis, Shengfu Yang, Diethard K. Bohme and Paul Scheier, “Cold physics and chemistry: collisions, ionization and reactions inside helium nanodroplets close to zero K”, Phys. Rep. 751, 1-90 (2018).
  7. Media Kakaee, Shengfu Yang* and Andrew M. Ellis,* "Infrared Spectroscopy of Methanol and Methanol/water Clusters in Helium Nanodroplets: The OH Stretching Region", J. Phys. Chem. 121, 771-776 (2017).
  8. Shengfu Yang*, Cheng Feng, Daniel Spence, Aula M. A. A. Al Hindawi, Elspeth Latimer, Andrew M. Ellis, Chris Binns, Davide Peddis, Sarnjeet S. Dhesi, Liying Zhang, Yafei Zhang, Kalliopi N. Trohidou*, Marianna Vasilakaki, Nikolaos Ntallis, Ian MacLaren, and Frank M. F. de Groot, “Robust ferromagnetism of chromium nanoparticles formed in superfluid helium”, Adv. Mater. 29, 1604277 (2017).
  9. Ahmed Sadoon, Gautam Sarma, Ethan Cunningham, Jon Tandy, Magnus Hanson-Heine, Nicholas Besley, Shengfu Yang*, Andrew Ellis*. “Infrared Spectroscopy of NaCl(CH3OH)n Complexes in Helium Nanodroplets”, J. Phys. Chem. A 120, 8085-8092 (2016).
  10. Jon Tandy, Cheng Feng, Adrian Boatwright, Gautam Sarma, Ahmed M. Sadoon, Andrew Shirley, Natercia Das Neves Rodrigues, Ethan M. Cunningham, Shengfu Yang* and Andrew M. Ellis*, “Infrared spectroscopy of salt-water complexes”, J. Chem. Phys. 144, 121103 (2016).
  11. Andrew Ellis and Shengfu Yang*, “The role of helium droplets in the mass spectra of diatomics: the suppression of dissociative reactions”, Chin. J. Chem. Phys. 28, 489-492 (2015).
  12. Andrew Ellis and Shengfu Yang*, “Novel nanoscience in superfluid helium droplets: from nanoparticles to nanowires”, Sci. Lett. J. 5, 225 (2015).
  13. Jay Jeffs, Nicholas A. Besley, Anthony J. Stace,* Gautam Sarma, Ethan M. Cunningham, Adrian Boatwright, Shengfu Yang and Andrew M. Ellis, “Metastable aluminium atoms floating on the surface of helium nanodroplets”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 233401 (2015).
  14. Cheng Feng, Elspeth Latimer, Daniel Spence, Aula M. A. A. Al Hindawi, Shem Bullen, Adrian Boatwright, Andrew M. Ellis* and Shengfu Yang*, “Formation of Au and tetrapyridyl porphyrin complexes in superfluid helium”, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 17, 16699-16704 (2015).
  15. Daniel Spence, Elspeth Latimer, William York, Adrian Boatwright, Cheng Feng, Shengfu Yang∗, Andrew M. Ellis,* “Formation of aluminium clusters in helium nanodroplets”, Inl. J. Mass Spectrom. 365-366, 86-88 (2014).
  16. Elspeth Latimer, Daniel Spence, Cheng Feng, Adrian Boatwright, Andrew M. Ellis* and Shengfu Yang*, “Preparation of ultrathin nanowires using superfluid helium droplets”, Nano Lett. 14, 2902-2906 (2014).
  17. Daniel Spence, Elspeth Latimer, Cheng Feng, Adrian Boatwright, Andrew M. Ellis* and Shengfu Yang*, “Vortex-induced aggregation in superfluid helium droplets”, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 16, 6903-6906 (2014).
  18. Shengfu Yang,* Andrew M. Ellis, “Clusters and Nanoparticles in Superfluid Helium Droplets: Fundamentals, Challenges and Perspectives”, in Nanodroplets. Editors: Wang Z. M., 18: 237-264. Springer 22 Jan 2014.
  19. Benjamin Shepperson, Jon Tandy, Adrian Boatwright, Cheng Feng, Daniel Spence, Andrew Shirley, Shengfu Yang,* and Andrew M. Ellis*, “Electronic Spectroscopy of Toluene in Helium Nanodroplets: Evidence for a Long-Lived Excited State”, J. Phys. Chem. A 117, 13591-13595 (2013).
  20. Shengfu Yang,* Andrew M. Ellis,* Daniel Spence, Cheng Feng, Adrian Boatwright, Elspeth Latimer, Chris Binns, “Growing metal nanoparticles in superfluid helium”, Nanoscale 5, 11545-11553 (2013).
  21. Adrian Boatwright, Cheng Feng, Daniel Spence, Elspeth Latimer, Chris Binns, Andrew M. Ellis* and Shengfu Yang,* “Helium droplets: a new route to nanoparticles”, Faraday Disc. 162, 113-124 (2013).
  22. Shengfu Yang and Andrew M. Ellis,* “Helium droplets: a chemistry perspective”, Chem. Soc. Rev. 42, 472-484 (2013).
  23. Benjamin Shepperson, Jun Liu, Andrew M. Ellis* and Shengfu Yang,* “Communication: Electron impact ionization of binary H2O/X clusters in helium nanodroplets: An ab initio perspective”, J. Chem. Phys. 137, 201102 (2012).
  24. Christian Leidlmair, Peter Bartl, Harald Schöbel, Stephan Denifl, Shengfu Yang, Andrew M. Ellis, Paul Scheier, “Ionization of Methane Clusters in Helium Nanodroplets”, ChemPhysChem 13, 469-476 (2012).
  25. Benjamin Shepperson, Jun Liu, Andrew Ellis* and Shengfu Yang*, “Communication: The formation of helium cluster cations following the ionization of helium nanodroplets: Influence of droplet size and dopant”, J. Chem. Phys. 135, 041101 (2011).
  26. Jun Liu, Ben Shepperson, Andrew Ellis and Shengfu Yang*, “Core-shell effects in the ionization of doped helium nanodroplets”, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 13, 13920-13925 (2011).
  27. Benjamin Shepperson, Jun Liu, Andrew Ellis* and Shengfu Yang* “Ionization of Doped Helium Nanodroplets: Residual Helium Attached to Diatomic Cations and Their Clusters”, J. Phys. Chem. A 115, 7010-7016 (2011).

Research Grants

  • Leverhulme Trust research project grant (RPG-2016-272) (£137K, 2017-2019)
  • Proof-of-concept fund, University of Leicester (£15K, 2015-2016)
  • Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund (ACSS 15/002) (£1.44 K, 2015)
  • EPSRC research grant (EP/J021342/1) (£412K, 2012-2015)
  • Beamline I06-1, Diamond Light Source (SI11489-1) (26-29 May 2015)
  • Leverhulme Trust research project grant (RPG-2012-552) (£133K, 2012-2014)
  • EPSRC research grant (EP/I009213/1) (£813K, 2010-2014)
  • University Innovation Fellowship (£15K, 2012-2013)
  • EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship (EP/D071402/1) (£420K, 2006-2011)
  • HEIF fund on photocatalysis (£15 K, 2011)
  • Innovation Fellowship, EU regional funding agent, East Midland (£15K, 2010- 2011)
  • The Royal Society International Travel Grant for Collaboration (TG092097) (£4K, 2010)
  • The Royal Society Research Grant (RG080386) (£15K, 2009-2010)
  • Leverhulme Trust research project grant (RPG-2016-308) (£126K, 2017-2019)
  • Leverhulme Trust research project grant (RPG-2012-740) (£122K, 2013-2015)

Academic Distinctions & Awards

  • Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry (2016-)
  • Kingshan Professor, Jiangsu University, China (2017)
  • Joseph Wang Award for Nanoscience, Cognizure (2015)
  • Visiting Professor, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, China (2015)
  • Merit Awards, University of Leicester (2012)
  • EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship (2006-2011)


Helium Nanodroplets

Helium nanodroplets are large helium clusters composed of, typically, 103-1012 helium atoms. They are very cold superfluid, with a steady state temperature as low as 0.38 K for 4He. Therefore, helium droplets have ultra-high thermal conductivity and thus the cooling rate (> 1010 K/s). Foreign species, when captured by helium nanodroplets, can be cooled rapidly to the ambient temperature.

As helium droplets are highly sticky, they have a near unity pickup probability with the pickup cross-sections almost equal to their geometric cross-sections. After being picked up, molecules/atoms tend to locate themselves near the center of helium droplets where the global minima of the potential energy surface is located. The only exceptions are alkali and some alkaline earth metal atoms which reside on the surface of helium droplets rather than enter the interior.

Helium droplets offer unique environment for the investigation of molecules and clusters at very low temperature conditions, as well as new opportunities for the growth of novel nanoparticles.

Currently, my research covers both the Physical Chemistry and nanoscience of molecules and clusters in superfluid helium droplets, including several interwoven research programmes:

  1. Spectroscopy and mass spectrometry of molecules and clusters
  2. Synthesis of novel helium- and neon-containing compounds
  3. Magnetic nanoparticles
  4. Optical properties of nanoparticles
  5. Novel core-shell nanoparticles and nanowires

Two UHV helium droplet sources have recently been constructed in Dr. Yang’s group in order to carry out this research.

Physical Chemistry in Helium Nanodroplets

Helium droplets are superfluid, allowing molecules to vibrate and rotate in a manner similar to that in the gas phase; hence they are ideal nano-matrix for spectroscopy and mass spectrometry investigations of molecules and clusters in helium droplets, which are the current focus of our research in the field of Physical Chemistry.

SY 2

In particular, helium droplets can stabilize chemicals that are unstable/attainable at room temperature, allowing the formation and investigation unusual species, such as novel helium-containing chemicals and core-shell molecular structures.

Chains of silver nanoparticles

The former is one of the great challenges of chemistry because helium is one of the long-lived elements that do not have stable chemicals so far. The latter, which has been demonstrated recently, provides the proof-of-concept for synthesizing core-shell nanoparticles by sequential addition of materials to helium droplets. More recently, by the addition of Ag atoms to superfluid helium droplets which are pinned to the vortex lines and aggregate into spherical particles,  we have obtained firm evidence for the quantized vortices in nanoscale superfluid helium.

Synthesis of Novel Nanoparticles and Nanowires

SY 1Helium droplets provide very cold nano-matrix for the growth of nanoparticles because of the superfluidity and very low equilibrium temperature. At such a low final temperature all substances, with the exception of helium itself, condense and therefore materials that are conventionally not used in fabricating nanoparticles, such as liquids and even gaseous materials at room temperature, can now be added to helium droplets to form clusters and nanoparticles. It is this almost unlimited flexibility in the choice of pickup material that makes helium droplets suitable for forming a vast array of novel nanoparticles.

In addition, a travelling helium droplet beam can pick up more than one type of dopant when it passes through a pickup region, either via addition of a premixed gas to a single pickup cell or by the sequential addition of different types of materials to a series of pickup cells. In the former case one would obtain mixed clusters and/or particles, while for the latter it is possible to form core-shell structures with the upstream material as the core and the downstream material as the shell. In this way helium droplets offer a straightforward way of obtaining control of core-shell structures simply by using two or more pickup cells and deciding on the order in which the dopants are added.

In Leicester we have recently constructed two UHV helium droplet sources, withNickel nanowires which  we have successfully synthesized Ag, Au, Ni particles, and Ag/Au, Ni/Au core-shell nanoparticles. Using TEM and XPS, we have obtained crystalline suface structures for the first time, have provided the first direct evidence for the synthesis of core-shell nanoparticles using superfluid helium droplets. More recently, the discovery of quantized vortices in superfluid helium droplets has also opened up new possibilities for the formation of ultra-thin 1D nanosctructures, which have been exploited in my group.


Novel magnetic nanoparticles have also been recently explored in Dr Yang's group. A recent discovery is the strong ferromagnetism in chromium nanoparticles grown in superfluid helium. The ferromagnetism is due to the abundant unbalanced surface spins created in the chromium nanoparticles via a frustrated aggregation process. This suggests that antiferromagnetic elements such as chromium and manganese can be incorporated into novel nanomagnets and improve the magnetic properties, and high-moment magnetic nanoparticles can be developed using superfluid helium as the solvent. Potentially this can become a platform technology that many applications can base on, with important applications spinning biomedical diagnosis and treatment, drug delivery, data storage and the energy industry.


For current postgraduate opportunities, please click here.

For current postdoctoral opportunities, please click here.

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Contact Details

Department of Chemistry
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Email: chemistry@le.ac.uk

Tel: [+44] (0)116 252 2100

Fax: [+44] (0)116 252 3789

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