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, hydrogen fuel cells, and catalysts all undergo complex changes during use; 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 now work closely with the battery and catalyst communities of the Department, wider University, and internationally to understand structural dynamics and failure mechanisms of new energy materials.
P: +44 (0)1865 212799
Royal Society University Research Fellow, Oxford University 01/2018
Post-Doctoral Researcher, Pacific Northwest National Lab 01/2017 - 12/2017
Post-Doctoral Researcher, Oxford University 04/2013 - 12/2016
Materials Science PhD, Oxford University 2009 - 2013
Physics MPhys, Durham University 2005 - 2009
I completed my materials science doctorate at Oxford University in May 2013, for the thesis Synthesis and Characterisation of Large Area Graphene, with Prof Jamie Warner. Subsequently I was awarded an EPSRC doctoral prize (£24,794) to fund six months extended research on the thesis topics at post-doctoral level. I continued as a post-doctoral researcher at Oxford, co-funded by the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) and an EPSRC Platform Grant, researching nanomaterials for energy storage and catalysis through atomic resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
Synthesising graphene by chemical vapour deposition (CVD) is regarded as the most promising route to industrial scale graphene suitable for high-end electronic applications. 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.
During my Oxford post-doc I began to move more toward catalyst characterisation, in close collaboration with KIER. We developed a novel graphene encapsulated platinum nanoparticle system that is a highly resilient yet effective oxygen reduction reaction catalyst suitable for fuel cell applications. This work garnered interest in both academia, selected as a research highlight in Nature Nanotechnology, and from industrial partners of KIER, including Hyundai.
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. This was used for the characterisation of nanomaterial devices, yielding insights into the dielectric breakdown processes of WS2 at the atomic level.
In 2017 I had a post-doctoral position at Pacific Northwest National Lab in the USA, working on in-situ liquid-cell TEM of and dynamic TEM (DTEM) within the Nigel Browning group. Here I researched controlling the interaction between the sample of interest and the liquid-cell membrane window. During my time in PNNL I secured a Royal Society Research Fellowship, which I started in Oxford at the beginning of 2018.
I am an author on over 70 publications in journals including ACS Nano, Nano Letters, Nature Communications, and Science, with over 2,000 citations and an h-index of 24. I have been successful in grant applications as PI totalling in value of over £1 million.