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Prof. Driscoll’s group work in the area of Advanced Oxide Thin Films for Energy Devices and Energy Efficient ICT. Oxides are of interest as they possess the whole range of materials functions, all the way from insulators to superconductors (with ferroelectrics, semiconductors, and magnetic materials, and a range of other functions in between). In the vast majority of cases, they are environmentally stable and benign.

The main challenge (some would say benefit!) of oxides is their properties are very sensitive to defects, strain, and doping. Another challenge is that properties are often insufficient to meet applications requirements (e.g. they may only function well but at too low of a temperature or too high of a temperature). The Driscoll group use nanoscience and nanoengineering to overcome the aforementioned challenges, covering basic science through to application. For example, we use new thin film nanostructuring and interface approaches to minimize defect concentrations, to engineer new strain states and to exploit interfacial effects. In short, we both manipulate and understand properties at the atomic scale to strongly improve device performance and open up new applications opportunities. We are also mindful of processes that are industrially applicable. Our work is highly interdisciplinary straddling the fields of applied physics, chemistry and engineering. We work closely with industries in the UK and abroad and a number of our discoveries/inventions have been adopted by industry.

To do our research we undertake growth and an in-depth characterisation (range of electrical and magnetic measurements from cryogenic temperature, up to ~700°C). Recently we have also started doing density functional theory (DFT) calculations to understand interface structures in both naocomposites and planar films and to help us better understand our experimental results.

To fabricate high quality thin films, we use advanced pulsed laser deposition with laser heating and in-situ XPS. We also use atmospheric pressure spatial atomic layer deposition (AP-SALD). Both these techniques are unique in a U.K. context.

Our research themes can be found here.


Figure 1. Advanced pulsed laser deposition with in-situ XPS used in Prof. Driscoll’s group


Figure 2. Atmospheric pressure spatial atomic layer deposition (AP-SALD) system used in Driscoll Group.

The following articles give more details on these two main growth methods used in the Driscoll group: