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Dr Michael H Palmer

Dr Michael H Palmer

Honorary Fellow in Chemistry

Room B24

University of Edinburgh
Joseph Black Building
David Brewster Road

Research Interests

Theoretical chemistry, molecular structure, molecular electronic properties, electronically excited states in aromatics and heterocycles, quadrupole coupling

Research Overview

Main methods of study

We use of ab initio Hartree-Fock SCF, CI and/or M??ller-Plesset methods to study the ground and electronically excited states of molecules. Studies include organic and inorganic types of molecule. We use GAMESS-UK, MOLPRO and GAUSSIAN-09 for specific types of investigation. The work is heavily computational including conventional and parallel processors on Unix based systems. We do not have an experimental program, but collaborate with spectroscopists on a routine basis, for the interpretation of specific spectral problems, or long term projects.

Specific Projects

1. The electronically excited states of aromatics and alkenes

The oldest of the spectroscopic techniques is in the UV range, and have been studied for over 100 years. Much of the early interest for chemists was in determining specific features of UV spectra for structural information in complex molecules. With the advent of IR and NMR in the 1960's, UV and vacuum UV (VUV) spectra, were largely deserted; this was because of the complexity of the spectra. Although the general principles were well established, most of the interpretation was empirical. Only in the last 30 years, with the advent of super-computers, has it been possible to put this work on a firm basis of theory.

Our UV and VUV spectra for polyatomic molecules, such as aromatics and hetero-aromatics, are studied by synchrotron radiation in the range up to about 12eV; generally; the spectra contain many discrete absorption maxima as well as broad bands with poorly defined structure. These spectra will contain both Rydberg (sharp) and valence states (often broad). The order of the electronic states cannot generally be decided without recourse to major theoretical chemical study.

We use multi-reference multi-root singles and doubles CI, usually termed MRD-CI, to give an interpretation of all low-energy states, for each symmetry, in both the singlet and triplet manifolds. Re-assignment of UV-photoelectron spectra without recourse to Koopmans' type or other ground state approaches follows naturally as part of these studies. When the MRD-CI strategy is applied to these problems, a set of reference configurations (which may total ~200), from which all single and double excitations are to be derived, is set up. The programme sets up a matrix of all the configurations and diagonalises the corresponding energy matrix; the lowest set of energy solutions and the excited state dipole moments, provide the interpretation of the spectra. A development of this is that of using state averaging techniques; it is possible to determine the equilibrium structures for many of these excited states.

2. Interpretation of NQR and microwave spectral Quadrupole Coupling Constants

Almost all elements of the Periodic Table have one or more quadrupolar isotopes. In molecules, such nuclei yield quadrupole coupling constants (QCC) as part of the electronic structure. Microwave spectroscopy (MW) provides the best method of investigating these QCC. In principal, all data concerning sign, direction and magnitude can be evaluated from the spectra. However, in practice, much of this data is not fully determined owing to insufficient combinations of isotopic substitution data, and sheer complexity of the spectra. Similarly, in the solid state, nuclear quadrupole resonance gives magnitudes of coupling constants, but no sign or direction for each element!! The use of high-level ab initio calculations provides such an interpretation. Such calculations may be either molecular, cluster or lattice in type, depending on the system. Our recent studies cover a range of common isotopes, including: l4N, l0,11B, 33S, 17O and halogen (Cl, Br and I).


  1. The electronic states of pyridine-N-oxide studied by VUV photoabsorption and ab initio configuration interaction computations , M. H. Palmer, S. Vronning Hoffmann, N. Jones, E. Smith, and D. Lichtenberger, J. Chem. Phys. 138 (2013) 214317-1 to 214317-10.
  2. The electronic states of 1,2,4-triazoles: a study of 1H- and 1-methyl-1,2,4-triazole by VUV photoabsorption and UV photoelectron spectroscopy and a comparison with ab initio configuration interaction computations, M. H. Palmer, P. J. Camp, S. Vronning Hoffmann, N. C. Jones, A. R. Head, D. L. Lichtenberger, J. Chem. Phys. 136, (2012) 094310-1 to 094310-11
  3. The electronic states of 1,2,3-triazole studied by vacuum UV photoabsorption and UV photoelectron spectroscopy, and a comparison with ab initio configuration interaction methods,  M. H. Palmer, S. Hoffmann, N. Jones, A. Head, D. Lichtenberger, J. Chem. Phys., 134, (2011), 084309-1 to 084309-13
  4. “Experimental and theoretical molecular and electronic structures of the N-oxides of pyridazine, pyrimidine and pyrazine", R. A. Aitken, B. Fodi, M. H. Palmer, A. M. Z. Slawina and Jing Yang, Tetrahedron 68 (2012) 5845-5851
  5. The electronic states of 1,2,5-oxadiazole studied by VUV absorption spectroscopy and CI, CCSD(T) and DFT methods, M.H. Palmer, Chemical Physics 360 (2009) 150-161
  6. Comparison of theoretical and experimental studies of infrared and microwave spectral data for 5- and 6-membered ring heterocycles. The rotation constants, centrifugal distortion and vibration-rotation constants. M. H. Palmer, R. Larsen, F. Hegelund, J. Molec. Spectrosc., 252 (2008) 60-71.