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Michael Duncan

Blurred image of a green laser used as background for stylistic purposes.
Regents Professor
Franklin Professor

Michael A. Duncan was born in Greenville, SC, and attended Furman University.  He received his Ph.D. (1982) at Rice University with Prof. Richard Smalley.  He held an NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (Boulder, CO) with Prof. Stephen Leone.  He joined the University of Georgia faculty in 1983, and is now Franklin Professor and Regents' Professor.  He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was Senior Editor for the Journal of Physical Chemistry for the period of 1998-2015, and Chair of the Physical Division of the American Chemical Society in 2019.

  • B.S. Chemistry, Furman University, 1976.
  • Ph.D. Physical Chemistry, Rice University, 1982.
Research Interests:

Our research program uses lasers, electrical discharges and pulsed supersonic molecular beams to produce a variety of unusual molecules, ions, metal complexes and atomic or molecular clusters.  The extreme conditions of the "synthesis" processes employed make it possible to produce strange molecular aggregates including metal atom nanoclusters, novel organometallic complexes (metal benzene sandwiches, metal-fullerenes), metal ions "solvated" by 1-30 water molecules, proton-bound dimers, or carbocations.  These systems test fundamental concepts of chemical bonding and provide models for metal-metal or metal-ligand bonding, metal ion solvation and metal-adsorbate interactions, and additionally provide specific examples of proton-transfer or organic reaction intermediates as well as interstellar molecules.  The ions or clusters produced are detected and size-selected with a specially-designed time-of-flight mass spectrometer and studied with UV-visible or infrared laser spectroscopy.  Computational chemistry methods are employed to complement the experimental work.  The combined spectroscopy measurements and computational work provides definitive answers about molecular structure, electronic structure, bonding energetics and the reactivity of these systems.

Selected Publications:


P. D. Carnegie, J. H. Marks, A. D. Brathwaite, T. B. Ward, M. A. Duncan, "Microsolvation in V+(H2O)n Clusters Studied with Selected-Ion Infrared Spectroscopy," J. Phys. Chem. A 124, 10931103 (2020).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpca.9b11275.

J. H. Marks, P. Kahn, M. Vasiliu, D. A. Dixon, M. A. Duncan, "Photodissociation and Theory to Investigate Uranium Oxide Cluster Cations," J. Phys. Chem. A 124, 1940−1953 (2020).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpca.0c00453.

J. H. Marks, T. B. Ward, M. A. Duncan, "Infrared Spectroscopy of the Coordination and Solvation in Cu+(Ethylene)n (n = 1-9) Complexes," Int. J. Mass Spectrom. 435, 107-113 (2019). (Helmut Schwarz festschrift).  DOI: 10.1016/j.ijms.2018.10.008.

M. P. Woodard, M. A. Duncan, "Laser Synthesis and Spectroscopy of Molybdenum Oxide Nanorods," J. Phys. Chem. C 123, 9560-9566 (2019).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.9b00627.

J. P. Wagner, S. M. Giles, M. A. Duncan, "Gas Phase Infrared Spectroscopy of the Methaniminium Cation," Chem. Phys. Lett. 726, 53-56 (2019).  DOI: 10.1016/j.cplett.2019.04.032.

M. A. Duncan, "Metal Cation Coordination and Solvation Studied with Infrared Spectroscopy in the Gas Phase," in Physical Chemistry of Cold Gas Phase Functional Molecules and Clusters, T. Ebata and M. Fujii, eds., Springer, Berlin, 2019.

J. H. Marks, T. B. Ward, A. D. Brathwaite, S. Ferguson, M. A. Duncan, "Cyclotrimerization of Acetylene in Gas Phase V+(C2H2)n Complexes: Detection of Intermediates and Products with Infrared Spectroscopy," J. Phys. Chem. A 123, 6733-6743 (2019).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpca.9b04962.


D. C. McDonald II, J. P. Wagner, M. A. Duncan, "Infrared Photodissociation Spectroscopy of the H6+ Cation in the Gas Phase," J. Chem. Phys. 149, 031105 (2018). (communication; selected as Feature Article) DOI: 10.1063/1.5043425.

J. P. Wagner, D. C. McDonald II, M. A. Duncan, "Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy of C7H7+ Isomers in the Gas Phase: Benzylium and Tropylium," J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 9, 4591–4595 (2018).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b02121.

D. C. McDonald II, J. P. Wagner, A. B. McCoy, M. A. Duncan, "Near-Infrared Spectroscopy of Protonated Water Clusters: Higher Elevations in the Hydrogen Bonding Landscape," J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 9, 5664–5671 (2018).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b02499.

J. P. Wagner, D. C. McDonald II, M. A. Duncan, Spectroscopy of Proton Coordination with Ethylenediamine, J. Phys. Chem. A 122, 5168−5176 (2018). DOI:10.1021/acs.jpca.8b03592.

M. P. Woodard, S. T. Akin, C. J. Dibble, M. A. Duncan, Synthesis and Spectroscopy of Ligand-Coated Chromium Oxide Nanoclusters, J. Phys. Chem. A 122, 3606–3620 (2018). doi:10.1021/acs.jpca.8b01219.

Marks, J. H., Ward, T. B., & Duncan, M. A. (2018). Photodissociation of Manganese Oxide Cluster Cations. J. Phys. Chem. A 122, 33833390. doi:10.1021/acs.jpca.8b01441

Wagner, J. P., McDonald, D. C., & Duncan, M. A. (2018). An Argon-Oxygen Covalent Bond in the ArOH+ Molecular Ion. Angew Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 57, 5081-5085. doi:10.1002/anie.201802093

Dillinger, S., Klein, M. P., Steiner, A., McDonald, D. C., Duncan, M. A., Kappes, M. M., & Niedner-Schatteburg, G. (2018). Cryo IR Spectroscopy of N2 and H2 on Ru8+: The Effect of N2 on the H-Migration. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 9, 914-918. doi:10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b00093

McDonald, D. C., Wagner, J. P., & Duncan, M. A. (2018). Mid/near infrared spectroscopy of the H2Cl+Ar cation complex compared to the predictions of anharmonic theory. Chem. Phys. Lett. 691, 51-55. doi:10.1016/j.cplett.2017.10.056

Wagner, J. P., McDonald, D. C., & Duncan, M. A. (2018). Infrared Spectroscopy of the Astrochemically Relevant Protonated Formaldehyde Dimer. J. Phys. Chem. A 122, 192-198. doi:10.1021/acs.jpca.7b10573

T. B. Ward, A. D. Brathwaite, M. A. Duncan, Infrared Spectroscopy of Au(Acetylene)n+ Complexes in the Gas Phase, Topics in Catalysis 61,49–61 (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s11244-017-0859-0.

Wagner, J. P., McDonald, D. C., & Duncan, M. A. (2017). Near-infrared spectroscopy and anharmonic theory of the H2O+Ar1,2  cation complexes. J. Chem. Phys. 147, 104302. doi:10.1063/1.4998419

Mauney, D. T., Maner, J. A., & Duncan, M. A. (2017). IR Spectroscopy of Protonated Acetylacetone and Its Water Clusters: Enol–Keto Tautomers and Ion→Solvent Proton Transfer. J. Phys. Chem. A, 121, 7059-7069. doi:10.1021/acs.jpca.7b07180

Wagner, J. P., Bartlett, M. A., Allen, W. D., & Duncan, M. A. (2017). Tunneling Isomerizations on the Potential Energy Surfaces of Formaldehyde and Methanol Radical Cations. ACS Earth & Space Chem.1, 361-367. doi:10.1021/acsearthspacechem.7b00068

Ward, T. B., Miliordos, E., Carnegie, P. D., Xantheas, S. S., & Duncan, M. A. (2017). Ortho-para interconversion in cation-water complexes: The case of V+(H2O) and Nb+(H2O) clusters. J. Chem. Phys. 146, . doi:10.1063/1.4984826

Maner, J. A., Mauney, D. T., & Duncan, M. A. (2017). Velocity map ion imaging study of Ar2+ photodissociation. Chem. Phys. Lett. 671, 182-185. doi:10.1016/j.cplett.2017.01.042


McDonald, D. C.; Mauney, D. T.; Leicht, D.; Marks, J. H. ; Tan, J. A. ; Kuo, J. - L.; Duncan, M. A. Communication: Trapping a proton in argon: Spectroscopy and theory of the proton-bound argon dimer and its solvation. J. Chem. Phys. 2016, 145, 231101.

Ward, T. B. ; Carnegie, P. D. ; Duncan, M. A. Infrared spectroscopy of the Ti(H2O)Ar+ ion–molecule complex: Electronic state switching induced by argon. Chem. Phys. Lett. 2016, 654, 1 - 5.

Leicht, D. ; Cheng, T. C. ; Duncan, M. A. Infrared spectroscopy of the glyoxal radical cation: The charge dependence of internal rotation. Chem. Phys. Lett. 2016, 643, 89 - 92.

D. T. Mauney, J. D. Mosley, L. R. Madison, A. B. McCoy, M. A. Duncan, Infrared Spectroscopy and Theory of Formaldehyde Cation and its Hydroxymethylene Isomer, J. Chem. Phys. 145, 174303 (2016).  DOI: 10.1063/1.4966214.

S. T. Akin, V. Zamudio-Bayer, K. Duanmu, G. Leistner, K. Hirsch, C. Bülow, A. Ławicki, A. Terasaki, B. von Issendorff, D. G. Truhlar, J. T. Lau, M. A. Duncan,  Size-Dependent Ligand Quenching of Ferromagnetism in Co3(Benzene)n+ Clusters studied with XMCD Spectroscopy, J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 7, 4568-4575 (2016).  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01839.


Mosley, J. D.; Young, J. W.; Huang, M.; McCoy, A. B.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared spectroscopy of the methanol cation and its methylene-oxonium isomer. J. Chem. Phys. 2015, 142, 114301.

Maner, J. A.; Mauney, D. T.; Duncan, M. A. Imaging Charge Transfer in a Cation−π System: Velocity-Map Imaging of Ag+(benzene) Photodissociation. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2015, 6, 4493 - 4498.

Assefa, M. K.; Devera, J. L.; Brathwaite, A. D.; Mosley, J. D.; Duncan, M. A. Vibrational scaling factors for transition metal carbonyls. Chem. Phys. Lett. 2015, 640, 175 - 179.

Akin, S. T.; Liu, X.; Duncan, M. A. Laser synthesis and spectroscopy of acetonitrile/silver nanoparticles. Chem. Phys. Lett. 2015, 640, 161 - 164.

Mosley, J. D.; Young, J. W.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared detection of the 1,3-dimethyl cyclopentadienyl cation, an isomer of protonated toluene. Int. J. Mass Spectrom. 2015, 378, 322 - 327.

Brathwaite, A. D.; Ward, T. B.; Walters, R. S.; Duncan, M. A. Cation−π and CH−π Interactions in the Coordination and Solvation of Cu+(acetylene)n Complexes. J. Phys. Chem. A 2015, 119, 5658 - 5667.


Brathwaite, A. D.; Maner, J. A.; Duncan, M. A. Testing the Limits of the 18-Electron Rule: The Gas-Phase Carbonyls of Sc+ and Y+. Inorg. Chem. 2014, 53, 1166 - 1169.

Ayers, T. M.; Akin, S. T.; Dibble, C. J.; Duncan, M. A. Laser Desorption Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry of Inorganic Nanoclusters: An Experiment for Physical Chemistry or Advanced Instrumentation Laboratories. J. Chem. Educ. 2014, 91, 291 - 296.

Luo, S.; Dibble, C. J.; Duncan, M. A.; Truhlar, D. G. Ligand-Mediated Ring → Cube Transformation in a Catalytic Subnanocluster: Co4O4(MeCN)n with n = 1–6. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2014, 5, 2528 - 2532.

Mosley, J. D.; Young, J. W.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared spectroscopy of the acetyl cation and its protonated ketene isomer. J. Chem. Phys. 2014, 141, 024306.

Mosley, J. D.; Young, J. W.; Agarwal, J.; Schaefer, H. F.; v. Schleyer, P. R.; Duncan, M. A. Structural Isomerization of the Gas-Phase 2-Norbornyl Cation Revealed with Infrared Spectroscopy and Computational Chemistry. Angew. Chem. 2014, 126, 5998 - 6001.

Reishus, K. N.; Brathwaite, A. D.; Mosley, J. D.; Duncan, M. A. Coordination versus Solvation in Al+(benzene)n Complexes Studied with Infrared Spectroscopy. J. Phys. Chem. A 2014, 118, 7516 - 7525.


Bandyopadhyay, B.; Reishus, K. N.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared Spectroscopy of Solvation in Small Zn+(H2O)n Complexes. J. Phys. Chem. A 2013, 117, 7794 - 7803.

Ricks, A. M.; Brathwaite, A. D.; Duncan, M. A. IR Spectroscopy of Gas Phase V(CO2)n+ Clusters: Solvation-Induced Electron Transfer and Activation of CO2. J. Phys. Chem. A 2013, 117, 11490 - 11498.

Brathwaite, A. D.; Ricks, A. M.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared Photodissociation Spectroscopy of Vanadium Oxide–Carbonyl Cations. J. Phys. Chem. A 2013, 117, 13435-13442.


Duncan, M. A. Infrared Laser Spectroscopy of Mass-Selected Carbocations. J. Phys. Chem. A 2012, 116, 11477 - 11491.

Duncan, M. A. Invited Review Article: Laser vaporization cluster sources. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 2012, 83, 041101.

Cheng, T. C.; Bandyopadhyay, B.; Mosley, J. D.; Duncan, M. A. IR Spectroscopy of Protonation in Benzene–Water Nanoclusters: Hydronium, Zundel, and Eigen at a Hydrophobic Interface. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 13046 - 13055.


Reed, Z. D.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared Spectroscopy and Structures of Manganese Carbonyl Cations, Mn(CO)n+ (n=1-9). J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 2010, 21, 739-749.

Kostko, O.; Leone, S. R.; Duncan, M. A.; Ahmed, M. Determination of Ionization Energies of Small Silicon Clusters with Vacuum Ultraviolet Radiation. J. Phys. Chem. A 2010, 114, 3176-3181.

Ricks, A. M.; Douberly, G. E.; Schleyer, P. v. R.; Duncan, M. A. Communications: Infrared spectroscopy of gas phase C3H3+ ions: The cyclopropenyl and propargyl cations. J. Chem. Phys. 2010, 132, 051101.

Cheng, T. C.; Bandyopadyay, B.; Wang, Y. M.; Carter, S.; Braams, B. J.; Bowman, J. M.; Duncan, M. A. Shared-Proton Mode Lights up the Infrared Spectrum of Fluxional Cations H5+ and D5+. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2010, 1, 758-762.

Douberly, G. E.; Walters, R. S.; Cui, J.; Jordan, K. D.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared Spectroscopy of Small Protonated Water Clusters, H+(H2O)n (n = 2-5): Isomers, Argon Tagging, and Deuteration. J. Phys. Chem. A 2010, 114, 4570-4579.

Bandyopadhyay, B.; Cheng, T. C.; Duncan, M. A. Proton sharing in hydronium–nitrogen clusters probed with infrared spectroscopy. Int. J. Mass Spectrom. 2010, 297, 124 - 130.

Ricks, A. M.; Gagliardi, L.; Duncan, M. A. Infrared Spectroscopy of Extreme Coordination: The Carbonyls of U+ and UO2+. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 15905-15907.



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