Research in chemistry

The Department of Chemistry is the leading hub of chemistry teaching and research in Finland. The Department’s research is internationally recognised and is carried out within three research programmes: materials chemistry, molecular science, and synthesis and analysis.

The multidisciplinary research programme in materials chemistry encompasses research in inorganic, organic, polymer and structural chemistry. The research topics cover all perspectives from basic research (synthesis and characterisation) to applications (materials used in electronics, functional materials and consumer goods).

The characterisation of materials is an integral part of research in materials chemistry. The Department of Chemistry has a variety of devices and methods for this purpose, including AFM/STM, FESEM-EDX, FIB/SEM, XRD/XRR, TGA, FTIR, NMR and MS.

The research programme is led by Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen.

HelsinkiALD - Research in thin films and nanostructures

Thin films are needed in all modern technologies – in microelectronics as well as in energy technologies and medical applications. Our research group is a worldwide leader in the development of atomic layer deposition (ALD) chemistry. Our ALD research focuses on thin film materials, which are used in next-generation integrated circuits, energy technologies, optics, surface engineering and biomaterials. In addition to thin films, our group also studies inorganic nanofibres produced by electrospinning and electroblowing techniques. We are also part of ALD center Finland, which is formed by HelsinkiALD, Helsinki Accelerator Laboratory, and X-ray laboratory at the University of Helsinki.

Research groups:

Research into plasmonics and nanocatalysts

Our team aims to bring the dream of a sustainable world closer to reality through chemistry and materials. We envision replacing fossil fuels with sunlight as a sustainable energy input to drive, accelerate and control molecular transformations important for generating green energy, mitigating climate change, providing a cleaner environment, and manufacturing medicines, chemicals, and biofuels. We develop designer nanoparticles marrying catalytic and optical properties to enable the next generation of molecular transformations driven by visible light and under mild conditions. We employ solution-phase strategies for the synthesis of inorganic nanomaterials having well-defined and controlled physicochemical features such as size, shape, structure, and composition. As the properties of a nanostructure are related to these parameters, their control offers a unique opportunity to maximize and optimize performances and move towards the development of nanomaterials by design. In addition to being part of HELSUS (Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science), we have partnerships and collaborations with different teams of complementary expertise across the globe in the areas of synthesis, catalysis, characterization, and modeling.

Research groups:

Functional polymers and bio-based materials

Functional polymers and bio-based materials are becoming an integral part of modern society. Their range extends from everyday consumables (such as textiles) to controlled drug release and diagnostic applications. Modern synthetic chemistry allows for the development of novel polymeric materials which can self-assemble in solid state or in solution, making it possible to construct intelligent (nano)devices and materials. Green chemistry also enables the dissolution and chemical modification of biopolymers to produce, for example, textiles, films and non-woven products with the required properties. In addition, we study smart polymers that react to changes in temperature, pH, electric field or light.

Research groups:

Biomass conversion

The conversion of wood-based biomass is a key pillar of the Finnish economy, as well as an important research field for sustainable development – also from an international perspective. In-depth knowledge of the structure and chemical composition of biomass is a prerequisite for many production chains important to society, such as biofuel refining, pharmaceutical development and processes in the textile and construction industries. The biomass conversion group focuses on precisely these topics. The group’s activities emphasise analytics (especially NMR spectroscopy), organic chemistry, physical organic chemistry, materials chemistry and studies of the crystallinity, chemistry, structure and convertibility of biomass. The production of novel solvents, such as ionic liquids, as analytics and conversion tools is key to the future of basic research in the field and to the development of commercial applications from biomass, primarily from pulp. Examples of such applications include fine chemicals, textile fibres, films and 3D structures

Research groups:

The molecular science research programme combines various experimental and theoretical approaches. The focal areas in experimental research include exhaled human air monitoring, photochemistry, low-temperature chemistry, fundamental reaction studies, gas kinetics, solid phase and surface reactions, and combustion chemistry. In addition to experimental techniques (infrared optical frequency combs, precision laser spectroscopy and mass spectrometry techniques), we develop and employ numerous theoretical and computational methods.

The research programme is led by Professor Gareth Law.

Experimental research in molecular science

The focal areas in experimental research include exhaled human air monitoring, photochemistry, low-temperature chemistry, fundamental reaction studies, gas kinetics, solid phase and surface reactions, and combustion chemistry. In addition to experimental techniques (infrared optical frequency combs, precision laser spectroscopy and mass spectrometry techniques), we develop and employ numerous theoretical and computational methods.


Research groups:

Computational and theoretical chemistry

In computational and theoretical chemistry, we model large water clusters, the dynamics of chemical reactions on surfaces, molecular spectroscopy, thermodynamics and reactions of atmospheric molecules, bioinspired catalysis, biomolecules, weak interactions and solar-cell chromophores, to mention a few examples. We also employ computational methods to study the properties and behaviour of materials.

Research groups:


Radiochemistry research focuses on four areas, the largest of which is the behaviour of radionuclides from spent nuclear fuel in the geosphere. Other areas of research include radiopharmaceutical chemistry, the development of inorganic ion exchangers for the selective removal of radionuclides from wastewater, as well as environmental radioactivity.


Research groups:

The multidisciplinary research programme in synthesis and analysis focuses on the development of modern synthetic and analytical techniques. The group’s research topics span fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals, novel materials, lignocellulose biomass, and environmental and bioanalytical sciences. The group engages in active collaboration with industry and other research institutes. Green chemistry and sustainable development are emphasised in all research projects.

The research programme is led by Professor Timo Repo.

Synthetic methods, synthetic chemistry

In the field of synthetic chemistry, our focus lies on inorganic and organic synthesis, bioorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, as well as biocatalysis, metal catalysis and metal-free catalysis. Our research areas include carbohydrate synthesis, catalytic activation of small molecules, biorefinery applications involving lignocellulosic biomass processing and analytics, and the chemistry of nucleic acid constituents. Synthesis and catalysts designed with the help of computational chemistry, as well as the characterisation of substrates by various spectroscopic techniques, are other essential parts of the research programme.

Research groups:

Separation and analytical methods

In the field of analytical chemistry, we focus on developing novel instrumental techniques for the entire chain of analysis (sampling, sample preparation, analysis). Special emphasis is placed on theoretical, methodological and technical challenges. The utilisation of new materials, miniaturisation of devices and hyphenation of techniques play an important role in research. We employ various techniques, such as electromigration, chromatography and mass spectrometry, to solve problems involving environmental and bioanalytical chemistry.

Research groups:

Solving bioanalytical and physicochemical problems

Principal investigator (PI): professor Susanne Wiedmer

Our group has expertise in chromatographic and capillary electromigration (CE) techniques, field flow fractionation (AF4), and in biosensing methods such as quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) and nanoplasmonic sensing (NPS). The group has since the beginning of 2000 been working on nanoparticles, liposomes, and on liposome-analyte interactions using various modes of CE. Much focus has been on studying interactions between biomembrane-mimicking surfaces and analytes (by CE, NPS, and QCM) as well as on characterizing lipid vesicles and particles by CE, AF4, zeta potential, and particle size determinations. Emphasis has also been on the determination of distribution constants of analytes using liposomes built up from synthetic lipids or lipids extracted from biological samples. Ionic liquids have been another research target in the group, and focus has been on determining the toxicity of novel synthesized ionic liquids. Liposomes, cells, and zebrafish models have been used for that purpose.

Environmental analytical chemistry

University lecturer Kari Hartonen

Research in the field of environmental analytical chemistry is focused on the development of selective, efficient and reliable techniques and methods for sampling, sample pre-treatment, analysis and detection of environmental samples. The goal is to solve a variety of environmental problems and to shed light on research areas where these systems are needed. The successful application of the modern instrumental techniques and methods to qualitative and quantitative analysis of environmental samples (water, plants, soil, sediment, air and aerosol particles) requires often the exploitation of totally new materials. This is true especially in different solid phase microextraction techniques that are utilized to combine sampling, extraction and sample concentration into one step. The studies are targeted also at portable instruments and selective chemical sensors, valuable for field measurements. In the research, high resolution chromatography and high resolution mass spectrometry are the core techniques, and if only possible, harmful organic solvents are replaced with environmentally friendly supercritical fluids (CO2 and water) or pressurized hot water in sample pre-treatment, analytical separations and synthesis of new materials. Reliable calibration systems play also an important role in the development of environmental analytical techniques.