I am always open to collaboration, and welcome interested parties to contact me.

Ceramic processing and high-temperature electrochemistry

With a fume hoods, combustion furnace, drying oven, hot plates, mass balance, ball mill, and uniaxial press, we can synthesis ceramics via solid-state or nitrate routes. We also have a thermo-gravimetric analysis setup (TGA) for investigated changes in non-stoichiometry and a dilatometer for studying chemical expansion effects in ceramics.

We have several set-up for studying the electrical properties of ceramics and thin films as a function of temperature and oxygen partial pressure. Combined with impedance spectroscopy, this offers a powerful method to separate electrochemical processes with different characteristic time scales and allows the investigation of conductivity, surface exchange rates, and non-stoichiometry, electrically. Furthermore, some of the set-ups have windows for monitoring optical changes in films, which turns out to be a useful tool in investigating the non-stoichiometry and surface exchange in optically active materials. Most of the set-ups can be automated using the LabView software.

Optical setup built by Nicola Perry

Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD)


PLD is a technique to grow films of complex oxides easily and routinely (although obtaining the desired composition, orientation, and microstructure is the tricky part). A high energy laser is used to ablate a dense ceramic stoichiometric target to create a ‘plume’ which is incident on a heated (usually single-crystal) substrate. PLD provides a method to fabricate high quality oxide films and a means to control properties such as thickness, strain, crystallinity, grain size and microstructure, as well as engineer well-defined oxide interfaces for study.

X-ray Diffraction (XRD)

XRD is arguably the most important tool for the characterisation of thin films (along with electron microscopy – see below). It involves scattering a coherent beam of X-rays off the surface region of a sample and detected as a function of scattering angle, and is relatively fast, non-destructive, and highly accurate. XRD can provide information on the thickness, orientation, crystallinity, texture, lattice parameters and strain.


Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

HAADF-STEM image of a PCO/STO multilayer

Whereas XRD may be one of the most important tools for thin film engineering, TEM may be one of the most important tools for materials science as a whole. The information provided by TEM complements that obtained from XRD particularly well. While XRD yields information representative of a large proportion of the film volume, TEM probes a much smaller volume, but provides information at sub-atomic spatial resolution.

High energy electrons illuminate a thin cross-section of sample (typically prepared using the ‘lift-out’ method on a dual-beam focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope) producing either a greatly magnified image or electron diffraction pattern. Film morphology, microstructure, orientation relationships, and phase identification, can all be investigated at highly localised regions. Focusing the electron beam to a fine probe and rastering it across the sample (scanning transmission electron microscopy - STEM), opens up powerful new imaging techniques, as well as the ability to gain chemical information at the sub-atomic level with X-ray energy-dispersive spectrometry (XEDS – compositional information) and electron energy loss spectrometry (EELS – composition and electronic structure)./p>

Other facilities/expertise

Also regularly use scanning electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and magnetron sputtering for metal film deposition.

I also have extensive experience in ion beam analysis using low energy ion scattering (LEIS) as well as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) in conjunction with oxygen isotope tracer diffusion.