Metals and the conducting and superconducting states of matter


Bakerian 2012

Bakerian Lecture given by Professor Peter Edwards FRS

That most elementary question 'what is a metal?' has generated a long and surprising history of answers, dating back to the landmark discovery in 1807 of the (then) new metals potassium and sodium; reported by Sir Humphry Davy in his Bakerian Lecture of that year. But why are some chemical elements and substances metals (magnificent conductors of electricity) while others are insulating, stubbornly resistive, non-conductors? And why is it that the very best conductor of electricity at low temperatures (a superconductor) is not a shiny metal but a dull black, chemically complex ceramic oxide? Paradoxically, this brittle ceramic at room temperature could hardly be called a metal! So, what is this thing called 'metal'?

Professor Peter Edwards FRS was awarded the Bakerian Prize for his decisive contributions to the physics, chemistry and materials science of condensed matter including his work on the metal-to-insulator transition.

Peter P Edwards is Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford. His research interests include metal-insulator transitions, high temperature superconductivity, metals in non-aqueous solvents, small metallic particles and energy materials, with a particular emphasis on new-generation, high-performance materials for hydrogen production and storage, CO2 activation and utilisation, inorganic semiconductor thin films for solar energy applications and advanced catalytic materials. Following BSc and PhD degrees at Salford University, Edwards spent periods at Cornell University (Fulbright Scholar and National Science Foundation Fellow), University of Cambridge (Lecturer and Director of Studies in Chemistry, Jesus College) and the University of Birmingham (Professor of Chemistry, and of Materials), before assuming his present position at Oxford in 2003. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1996 and the German Academy of Sciences in 2009. He has recently has been awarded an Einstein Professorship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Metals and the conducting and superconducting states of matter 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

Events coming up

  • The next big thing 29 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Four Royal Society Research Fellows discuss their work at the forefront of science at the Hay Festival.
  • Stuff matters 31 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Join award winning author Mark Miodownik at the Hay Festival.
  • Elements, genomes and ecosystems: cascading nitrogen and phosphorus impacts across levels of biological organisation 01 June 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Theo Murphy international scientific meeting organised by Professor Andrew Leitch, Professor Maurine Neiman, Professor Dag Hessen, Professor Puni Jeyasingh, Professor Lawrence J. Weider and Dr Ilia Leitch

For more events please see the events diary.