Dr Alex W Robertson

I'm a materials scientist working to understand the nanoscale behaviour of materials, and how this can be related to their performance, degradation, and failure. Rechargeable batteries, functional materials, and catalysts often undergo complex changes under operation; my goal is to reveal this at the atomic level with techniques like transmission electron microscopy.

I started in the Materials Department at Oxford with a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2018, and moved to Warwick in 2021 as an Assistant Professor. I work closely with battery, catalyst, and functional materials communities of the Department, wider University, and internationally to understand structural dynamics and failure mechanisms of materials.

Positions

  • Assistant Professor, Warwick University 2021

  • Royal Society University Research Fellow, Oxford University 2018-2021

  • Post-Doctoral Researcher, Pacific Northwest National Lab 2017

  • Post-Doctoral Researcher, Oxford University 2013 - 2016

Qualifications

  • Materials Science PhD, Oxford University 2009 - 2013

  • Physics MPhys, Durham University 2005 - 2009

Personal Statement

I am a materials scientist interested in the characterisation of nanomaterials and interface for energy applications. My particular specialities are in two-dimensional materials, transmission electron microscopy, and in-situ characterisation techniques. I am an author on over 100 publications in journals including ACS Energy Letters, Nano Letters, Nature Communications, and Science, with over 6,000 citations and an h-index of 39.

 

I completed my materials science doctorate at Oxford University in 2013, for the thesis Synthesis and Characterisation of Large Area Graphene, with Prof Jamie Warner (now at Univ Austin, Texas). Synthesising graphene by chemical vapour deposition (CVD) is regarded as the most promising route to industrial scale graphene suitable for high-end applications like electronics. During my PhD I developed one of the first atmospheric pressure CVD systems for graphene. I worked extensively on the atomic resolution characterisation of defects in graphene and other 2D materials, using these 2D crystals as ideal model systems to better understand how defects behave at single atom levels.

 

I continued as a post-doctoral researcher at Oxford, co-funded by an international collaboration with the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), researching nanomaterials for energy storage and catalysis through atomic resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM). In tandem with this I established Oxford’s first in-situ electronic device TEM capability, building on work I had completed on in-situ heating studies of graphene sub-nanometre pores and dislocations. I used this to understand dielectric breakdown and other electric field effects in suspended 2D nanomaterial electronic devices. 

In 2017 I worked as a post-doc at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in the USA, where I gained my first experience on working with an in-situ liquid-cell compatible with TEM imaging, under the guidance of Prof Nigel Browning. During my time in PNNL I developed a scheme for affixing nanoparticles to the windows of the liquid-cell, granting a degree of sample control to this tricky technique. While in the USA I secured a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, conferring the funding and seniority to start a group, which I started in Oxford at the beginning of 2018 and relocated to Warwick in 2021, where I am currently an assistant professor.

My group has been focussed on using operando TEM techniques to understand material dynamics. Our recent work has included in-situ electrochemical TEM studies imaging the conditions under which dendrites form from novel calcium-ion electrolytes, and the role of fluoride in governing high-efficiency cycling of lithium metal anodes.