Amy E. Keirstead


B.Sc. (Honours)

Bishop's University (Quebec, Canada)



Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada)


Post-Doctoral Training

Research Group of Prof. Devens Gust

Arizona State University



Clinical Affiliations



Physical organic chemistry

organic photochemistry

laser flash photolysis

chemistry of materials

green chemistry.


Current Research

Currently, three projects are under investigation the Keirstead research group at UNE. Each project employs a photochemical probe reaction that was selected to learn more about the physicochemical properties of ionic liquids. Ionic liquids (ILs) are thought to be "green" alternatives to conventional solvents for chemical processes and could be employed in nanotechnology devices.

1) Quantifying the cage effect of ionic liquids using the photo-Fries reaction.

The goal of this project is to learn more about the "cage effect" of ILs, or how ILs "restrict" species within a solvent cage. A large cage effect could reduce the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell that uses an IL as the electrolyte, or could influence the product distribution of a chemical reaction.

2) Examining the photochromism of spiropyrans in ionic liquids using emission spectroscopy.

To explore the feasibility of using ILs as solvents for molecular devices, we are examining the dynamics of spiropyran photochromism in ILs. Spiropyrans are a class of photochromic "on-off" molecular switches that could be used as molecular electronic devices. We have used emission spectroscopy to show that the dynamics of the switch are slowed in ILs compared to molecular solvents, due to the unique properties of ILs. Specifically, our system could be used as a robust two-color (red and blue) emitting molecular switch.

3) Investigating the influence of ionic liquid media on the photoluminescence of siloles (with Jerry Mullin, UNE and Hank Tracy, USM).

Siloles are a class of substituted silacyclopentadienyl molecules that are thought to have applications as sensors and luminescent optoelectronic devices, e.g., OLEDs. Siloles typically have low fluorescence quantum yields when dissolved in organic solvents, but their emission increases when in a viscous or polar medium. In this project, we are investigating how the unique properties of ILs influence the photoluminescence of siloles, and in turn, more about the physicochemical properties of ILs.

Research Interests

My research program uses photochemical probe reactions to learn about the properties of novel materials for use in green chemistry and nanotechnology applications. While my current focus is on ionic liquids, I am also interested in other heterogeneous media such as  zeolites and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). 

Selected Publications

1,1-Dimethyl-2,3,4,5-tetraphenylsilole as a Molecular Rotor Probe to Investigate the Microviscosity of Imidazolium Ionic Liquids. Scalise, Regina E.*; Caradonna, Peter A.*; Tracy, Henry J.; Mullin, Jerome L.; Keirstead, Amy E. Journal of Inorganic and Organometallic Polymers and Materials 2014, 24 (2), 431-441. (*UNE undergraduate students)

Direct observation of spiropyran phosphorescence in imidazolium ionic liquids. Naughton, Sean P.*; Gaudet, Robyn M.*; Leslie, Anne A.*, Keirstead, Amy E. Chemical Physics Letters 2013, 556, 102-107.  (*UNE undergraduate students)

Photochemical Triode Molecular Signal Transducer.  Keirstead, Amy E.; Bridgewater, James W.; Terazono, Yuichi; Kodis, Gerdenis; Straight, Stephen; Liddell, Paul A.; Moore, Ana L.; Moore, Thomas A.; Gust, Devens.  Journal of the American Chemical Society 2010, 132(18), 6588-6595.

 1-(3'-amino)propylsilatrane derivatives as covalent surface linkers to nanoparticulate metal oxide films for use in photoelectrochemical cells.  Brennan, Bradley J.; Keirstead, Amy E.; Liddell, Paul A.; Vail, Sean A.; Moore, Thomas A.; Moore, Ana L.; Gust, Devens.  Nanotechnology 2009, (20), 505203 (10 pp).

Preparation of photochromic poly(vinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene) fibers by electrospinning.  Wang, Mao; Vail, Sean A.; Keirstead, Amy E.; Marquez, Manuel; Gust, Devens; Garcia, Antonio A.  Polymer 2009, (50) 3974-3980.

Porphyrin-Based Hole Conducting Electropolymer. Liddell, Paul A.; Gervaldo, Miguel; Bridgewater, James W.; Keirstead, Amy E.; Lin, Su; Moore, Thomas A.; Moore, Ana L.; Gust, Devens. Chemistry of Materials 2008, 20 (1), 135-142.


Funded Grants

2010: "Exploring the Influence of Organized Media on the Photoluminescence Behavior of Siloles" ($25,000/1 year), funded by the Maine Space Grant Consortium Maine Space Grant Education and Seed Research Program (MSG/ESR). With co-PIs Jerome Mullin (UNE) and Hank Tracy (USM).

2011: "Using the photo-Fries reaction as a photochemical probe to quantify the cage effects of ionic liquids" ($50,000/2 years) from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

2012:  MRI: Acquisition of a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Instrument for Research and Teaching. Ursula Roese PI; with co-PIs Amy Deveau, Teresa Dzieweczynski, Amy Keirstead and Stephan Zeeman ($137,527/2 years) from the National Science Foundation.


Amy E. Keirstead


Ph.D., Physical Organic Chemistry

Associate Professor, Chemistry

Morgane Hall

(207) 602-2264