Skip to main content

Research Overview

Research Interests

My main research interests are usually described on the University’s main webpages here. These are about to undergo significant renovation so only contain links to publications at the current time. This page contains a few details of my current research. Some links to older work have been left in place for historical interest.

My principal research interests lie in the field of solid state chemistry and involve the synthesis, characterisation and evaluation of new materials of potential industrial and academic interest. Some areas where we have been active in recent years are given in the bullet points below. The links will take you to the journal websites. If you can’t read the articles there, preprint versions can be found at Durham Research Online.

  • Chemical looping reactions (in collaboration with Ian Metcalfe and team at Newcastle Chemical Engineering). Read our 2019 Nature Chemistry article (or free version here) which shows how to build the first thermodynamically reversible chemical reactor. This lets you overcome the normal limitations of chemical equlibrium and perform (for example) the water gas shift reaction of H2O and CO to produce pure product streams of H2 and CO2 with essentially infinite conversion.
  • Functional Molecular Materials: Read our 2019 Chemistry of Materials article on “super colossal negative thermal expansion” in chloranilic acid pyrazine – a material that contracts by over 10% in one dimension on warming through 100 K.
  • Functional Molcecular Materials: Read how the ideas of molecular symmetry modes can be used to understand the unusual structural changes that happen in the molecular ferroelectric DCMBI on heating.
  • Energy Materials: Read some of our recent work on oxide ion conductors, materials that are needed as electrolytes in fuel cells. For example our 2019 Chemistry of Materials paper on SrScGa2O5, our 2020 paper on Sr(Sc,Zn,Ga)O2.4 which is a perovskite with remarkably low oxygen content, or our 2019 article on the local structure of apatite oxide ion conductors.
  • We have a long standing interest in Negative Thermal Expansion (NTE) materials – materials that actually contract in volume when heated. The link contains some historic information on these materials.
  • We work extensively on new methods for extracting structural information from powder diffractionClick here for a link to my 2018 text book on Rietveld Refinement.
  • If you’re interested in materials chemistry, keep an eye open for “Solid State Materials Chemistry” a new text I’ve co-authored that’s about to be published by Cambridge University Press.
  • New transition metal oxychalcogenides. Read our Inorganic Chemistry cover article on some fascinating “infinitely adaptive” layered transition metal oxyselenides, our Chemistry of Materials article on their modulated structures, or our Chemistry of Materials article on the exquisite control of transition metal architecture that’s possible in these materials.
  • We work extensively on symmetry methods for understaning inorganic materials. Click here for some of our collaborative work with the isotropy team of Branton Campbell and Harold Stokes. Click here to read our 2016 JACS article on extensive symmetry-inspired structure solution of Bi2Sn2O7.

Selected older research highlights can be accessed here.

We have excellent facilities within the group for the synthesis and characterisation of new materials including state of the art variable temperature powder diffraction facilities. We have access to all the facilities of Durham’s superbly equipped Chemistry department and active collaborations with groups specialising in magnetism and conductivity measurements in the Physics Department. Follow the links on the left to visit our facilities.

We also make extensive use of central facilities such as the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Synchroton Radiation Source at Daresubry, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL) at Grenoble to perform diffraction or scattering experiments that are not possible using laboratory facilities.

Information on joining the group is available here.