Research

During my research career, my interests were centred on the modeling of processes at interfaces. In the early 1960s, the field of surface science was in its infancy but due primarily to the growth of the semiconductor industry, over the following 40 years surface science developed into a major area of research located at the boundaries between physics, chemistry and engineering. The 60s heralded the paradigm shift in electronics from vacuum tube technology to solid state devices and there were many complex manufacturing problems that accompanied this innovation. Semiconductor devices (computer memory, lasers, photocells etc) are really quite uncomplicated and are simply layers of dissimilar materials grown sequentially, but the problem is the level of control must be accurate to the size of atoms. The condensation of atoms an molecules under this level of scrutiny is difficult to achieve but the reward is where we currently are in technology with computers, smartphones, GPSs and many more labour saving products.

Research

150

Scholarly articles published

100

Invited papers presented

£20m

of funding secured

Semiconducting devices was not the only area where understanding surface processes would be decisive in developing new products. Heterogeneous catalysis is an industrial process that gives rise to a wide number of every day products from nitrogen based fertilizers to margarine. Rust forms at the surface of iron when it comes into contact with water or moist air; the surface oxide weakens the metal and ultimately for many of the uses that iron is put to, this failure is dangerous and in some instances catastrophic. The same argument could be made for the embrittlement of metals by the diffusion of hydrogen into the bulk of the material.

My research was to try to understand these gas-surface problems but also problems at the liquid-solid interface which is at the core for understanding electrochemical processes such as plating and the creation of gases, both multi-million dollar industries. In addition to investigating the processes themselves, I also published in the area of surface spectroscopies, those analytical tools that allow high quality surfaces to be interrogated to determine atomic geometries and molecular function.

I published over 150 scholarly articles including a book, edited books, reviews and peer-reviewed papers. I have chaired conferences in the UK, Europe and the USA. I raised in excess of £20m of research funding and have presented over 100 invited papers at international conferences, workshops and universities throughout the world. My last research publication was in 2003 and my papers are still regularly cited.