Our Research

High-temperature superconductors

The synthesis of metastable compounds with superstoichometric quantities of hydrogen, "superhydrides", at high pressure-temperature conditions holds the key to room-temperature superconductivity.

Exploring the possibility of readily synthesizing superhydrides using pressure-temperature pathways produces a theoretical understanding of the underlying chemical processes and metastable states which will allow the recovery of these high temperature superconducting materials at ambient conditions.

Low-Z materials

The composition of the ice giant planets such as Uranus and Neptune is expected to feature a rocky core and gaseous atmosphere, with the bulk of their interior being a thick, intermediate layer of warm dense fluids and "ices".

This layer is dominated by light molecular systems comprising the so-called elements of life; e.g. water, methane, ammonia, and hydrocarbons. The properties of this ice layer lead to the unusual multi-polar and non-axisymmetric magnetic fields of ice giant planets.

Metals and their bonding

Simple alloying or mixing of metallic (and sometimes non-metallic) components to make compounds with properties distinct from the parent materials has brought about great advances such as steel.

Researchers have realized a new set of alloys – intermetallic alloys that have brought about a new age of technological advances. Unlike simple alloys, intermetallics have well-defined, fixed stoichiometries with crystal structures unique from the starting materials. Therefore, materials’ composition and structure and thus properties can be tuned for specific applications.

Ceramics and minerals

Compounds such as oxides, nitrides and sulfides find far-reaching applications in technology and in everyday life, whilst also being the building blocks of our planet. Their behavior under the broadest possible range of conditions is therefore central to our understanding of the world around us, and to the uncovering of new functional materials.

Issues such as the storage of nuclear waste necessitates materials with structural stability due to the continuous radiation damage to the host. The pursuit for high radiation tolerance materials focuses the need to understand the many mechanisms by which these materials transform.

New techniques at extreme scales

X-rays are a particularly powerful probe because they are element specific, and a highly sensitive probe to the environment around an atom on a molecular scale. The past decade has seen a revolution in X-ray technology as X-ray free electron lasers – large machines capable of generating the most intense X-ray flux on the planet have come into use, enabling studies of phenomena which cannot be studied any other way. The unique properties of these machines enable matter to be studied at its natural temporal (femtoseconds, 1 / 1,000,000,000,000,000th of a second) and length scales (angstroms, Å, 1 / 10,000,000,000th of a meter). In particular, we are pushing these new machines to enable unprecedented understanding of surfaces, interfaces, and to control matter at the quantum scale with a precision previously impossible.