My longest-running academic interest has been in the interaction of superconductivity and magnetism—two cornerstone phenomena of solid-state physics that at first sight are antitheses, but that on closer inspection are revealed to provide a rich and nuanced tapestry of interrelated effects. From superconductors possessing an intrinsic magnetic moment to the artificial incorporation of magnetic material into a superconductor with the aim of improving its performance, my investigations cover the range from fundamental physics to applied materials science.
My interests also encompass these two fields individually, with important contributions in the development of practical superconducting technologies for application, particularly in the growing energy sector, and of hard magnetic thin films for data storage applications.
I have extensive experience of a wide range of electrical and magnetic characterisation techniques and interpretation, including electrical and thermal transport measurements, device characterisation and magnetisation measurements (VSM and SQUID-based), extending both to high temperatures and cryogenic temperatures.
My interest and expertise in thin film deposition spans the range of available techniques from basic thermal evaporation to advanced pulsed laser deposition. I also have extensive experience of the solution deposition methods applicable in particular to superconducting coated conductors. I apply these techniques to complex multinary systems with a particular interest in the epitaxial growth of materials that may be unavailable in bulk single crystal form, or where the dimensions available from an epitaxial thin film may enable experiments that are impossible on the limited single crystal sizes available. Extending this interest, I am also keen to investigate metastable phases that may only be accessible in thin film form, whether stabilised through epitaxial strain or through non-equilibrium film growth processes.
I am familiar with a wide range of materials characterisation techniques applicable to thin films, in particular advanced x-ray diffraction techniques as well as scanning electron microscopy, interpretation of transmission electron microscopy images, and surface studies via atomic force microscopy.
Building on my thin film expertise, I have a strong interest in the broader field of nanotechnology, with experience in cleanroom processing and device fabrication, photolithography, dry and chemical etching. I am also interested in the combination of traditional top-down nanotechnological processing with novel bottom-up approaches such as self-assembly and anodic alumina templating in order to achieve industrially relevant outcomes amenable to industrial scale-up and application.
I am always excited by the opportunity to develop new or improved experimental techniques and modifications to existing apparatus, for example utilising the tip of an atomic force microscope to effect electrochemical changes in the material underneath, thereby achieving direct writing of nanoscale functional elements, with the potential for parallelisation.
Nature offers proven and imaginative solutions to many of the problems faced in the development of advanced materials, not least of all complex synthetic capability in a restricted-energy, environmentally-benign ambient environment. Several examples of these have garnered widespread popular attention, but many others exist to guide us towards new methods of processing advanced functional materials. I apply a range of bio-inspired techniques to the production of highly synthetic inorganic materials. Through the incorporation of bio-derived sacrificial additives within the synthesis protocol, I am able to influence different stages of the reaction process in complex ways, thereby achieving indirect control over the detailed macromorphology of the synthesis product or relaxed processing conditions. This can often result in a product that would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by conventional techniques. This field is at an early stage of development and a lot of the work is exploratory in nature, but holds immense promise of new capabilities in materials synthesis.