Alan Soper is the world expert in the structure of water and water-based solutions at the molecular level. Using experimental techniques such as neutron and X-ray diffraction, combined with computer simulation and structure refinement, Alan investigates the organisation and behaviour of water molecules, including their interaction with other molecules and surfaces. His work has huge relevance given the importance of water in the biochemical processes of living organisms.
He has characterised the structure of water under extreme conditions — as found miles down at the bottom of the ocean — and in heavily confined water such as occurs in nanoscopic mineral cavities. He has observed that this water is likely to be under significant tension — about -1000 atmospheres.
Alan has contributed to the design of novel instruments and techniques for total neutron and X-ray scattering, such as the NIMROD (near and intermediate range order diffractometer) at the UK’s ISIS research facility. Additionally, he has developed computer simulation as a tool for building three-dimensional models of disorder in materials that are consistent with experimental scattering data.