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John Attfield

Professor John Attfield

Professor John Attfield

Research Fellow

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Electronic Materials and Extreme Conditions

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Organisation: University of Edinburgh

Dates: Sep 2012-Aug 2017

Value: £50,000

Summary: iPads, mobile phones, laptops and other computer-based technologies rely on the conducting and magnetic properties of electronic materials. Semiconducting silicon processors and magnetic iron oxide memories are the basis of most current devices in everyday use, but better materials could lead to smaller or faster devices. It is still very difficult to predict and explain what properties many materials will have, because the electrons within them affect each other very strongly in ways that are difficult to calculate, so discovery of new materials is still based on experimental synthesis and property measurements. Extreme conditions, meaning unusually high pressures combined with high or low temperatures, can greatly help electronic materials discovery. Many new atomic arrangements in materials are created at high pressures and temperatures – in our laboratory we recreate the same conditions that diamonds are formed at within the Earth. We use these high pressure-temperature conditions to make new compounds combining several different metals with oxide and nitride anions. High pressure also changes the electrical properties of materials, as atoms are forced together making it easier for electrons to move between them. Experiments to follow how the conductivity and magnetism of materials alter with changing temperature, pressure and magnetic field are valuable to guide theory, and to discover new properties. For example, many electronic materials become superconducting at low temperatures - they conduct electricity with zero resistance and repel magnets, leading to practical uses ranging from electricity transmission to levitated trains. The results of this project will be useful to those who design new magnetic and conducting materials, who are trying to understand the theory of highly correlated electrons, who build high pressure measurement equipment, and who are making new types of electronic device.

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