The Physical Sciences Colloquia are intended for a broad audience – from undergraduate students to retired professors. The topics encompass the interests of all research groups in the School: from Applied Optics, through Astrophysics, Planetary Science and Forensic Imaging to Functional Materials Physics and Chemistry.
The colloquia are held on Wednesdays at 2 pm in the Ingram Lecture Theatre (ILT) unless otherwise specified. The programme is constantly updated. Click on the speaker’s name and the talk’s title for biographical information/contact details and an abstract, respectively.
Everybody welcome!

Present Term

All our colloquia for this term will be on our Events Calendar which we regularly update when we have a confirmed speaker so make sure to check back regularly! You can also have a look at speakers for our present term by clicking on their entry below:

9 October 2019 – Professor Roger Whatmore, Department of Materials, Imperial College, London NB: Please note this event will take place at 1pm

Title: “Liquid Exfoliation and Piezoresponse Force Microscopy Investigations of Ferroelectric Aurivillius Phase Nanosheets”

Abstract: Ferroelectrics form an attractive class of materials for many applications, such as in harvesting ambient energy via piezoelectric or pyroelectric effects in portable electronics or as memory elements for data storage, and ultra‐miniaturization is a key aspect of this. Thus, progress in the synthesis and understanding of their fundamental properties of ferroelectric materials at nanoscale (sub 10 nm) dimensions is important in both pure and applied research.
Aurivillius‐phase (AuP) ferroelectrics (general formula (Bi2O2)2+(Am‐1BmO3m+1)2‐) have structures consisting of layers of perovskite structure (m blocks) interleaved between fluorite‐like (Bi2O2)2+ layers. Here, we report the exfoliation of AuP SrBi2Nb2O9 (SBN ‐ m=2), Bi4Ti3O12 (BTO ‐ m=3) and Bi5Ti3Fe0.5Co0.5O15 (B5TFCO m=4) crystallite ‘flakes made by molten‐salt synthesis, and the investigation of the structures, ferroelectric and electrocatalytic properties of the exfoliated materials. PFM experiments support the ability for room temperature ferroelectricity to exist and switch in nano‐structured B5TFCO flakes as thin as 2.4 nm, which corresponds to a half
unit‐cell thickness for this structure.

This indication that ferroelectricity can survive at sub‐unitcell dimensions is significant from a fundamental point of view and important for practical applications of piezoelectrics and ferroelectrics in future miniaturized electronic devices.

9 October 2019 – Dr Lynette Keeney, Tyndall National Institute, University College CorkNB: Please note this event will take place at 1:45pm

Title: “Developing Multiferroic Aurivillius Phase Materials for Future Data Storage Technologies”

Abstract:The remarkable growth of the internet means that by 2025, the data created worldwide will be equal to a stack of DVDs that could reach the moon 23 times or circle Earth 222 times! Existing data storage solutions, based on either electric or magnetic information stored separately in single-bit devices, are already struggling to match the demand for data.

Considering this, it is now widely appreciated that technologies that can simultaneously combine electric and magnetic storage will permit up four-times or more increase in the amount of information that can be stored. However currently, no such devices exist because the materials needed for this technology- so-called multiferroics which work at room temperatures- are not only extremely rare but also remain to be proven to work at the dimensions required – typically around 10 nanometres- about 6000 times thinner than a human hair.

In this seminar, I will present the development of a rare example of such a multiferroic material system, Aurivillius phase Bi6TixFeyMnzO18 that exhibits ferroelectricity, ferromagnetism and magnetoelectric switching within the same structure at room temperature. The importance of rigorous analysis of sample purity before one can be confident that a material is truly a single-phase multiferroic will be presented.  I will discuss why the presence and location of manganese within the structure is key to its ferromagnetic behaviour. Finally, I will present the recent progress in the optimisation of these materials at <10nm dimensions for potential data storage applications.

6 November 2019 – Dr Mark Symes, University of Glasgow

Title: TBC

Abstract: TBC

13 November 2019 – Dr Craig Bull, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

Title: Materials synthesis and characterization under high pressure

Abstract: TBC

27 November 2019 – Associate Professor Vito Scarola, Virginia Tech 

Title: Quantum Analogue Simulation with Ultracold Atoms in Optical Lattices: Opportunities and Challenges 

Please note that this talk will take place at 1:00pm in Sibson Lecture Theatre 2 (SLT2).


Quantum analogue simulation offers promise in effectively solving intractable quantum many-body problems. One class of problems in particular, Hubbard models, provide simple reduced models of strongly correlated materials, such as copper oxide-based compounds. These and related compounds are particularly important because they exhibit high temperature superconductivity.

Yet unbiased computational methods have not settled debates regarding the essential physics captured by Hubbard models. Progress in another seemingly unrelated area can help with this mathematical problem. Cooling neutral atoms to quantum degeneracy has enabled the precise construction and manipulation of large multi-particle quantum states. Lasers defining optical lattices constrain the atoms so that their motion is very accurately captured by Hubbard models. As a result, these experiments are being used to effectively perform quantum analogue simulation of Hubbard models.

Work in my theory group seeks to guide experimental setups in these simulations. I will review experimental setups and discuss recent progress in using optical lattices to probe the controversial phase diagrams of Hubbard models.

4 December 2019 – Dr Roxanne Kieltyka, Leiden University


Abstract: TBC