Chris Nicklin


Chris Nicklin is a Principal Beamline Scientist on Beamline i07.  Chris joined Diamond in 2005, before that he worked for the University of Leicester.

Tel: +44 (0) 1235 778523

Key Research Area

Key Research

Surface crystallography, surface x-ray diffraction, grazing incidence small angle scattering, ultrahigh vacuum surface science.

Research Expertise

  1. Research Expertise
  2. Collaborators
  3. Publications
  4. Biography
Research Expertise -

Current Research Interests

Surface X-ray Diffraction is a powerful technique that allows the arrangement of atoms at the surface of a sample to be determined with very high resolution. Hard X-rays (typically 15keV) allow interfaces to be studied under a range of conditions, including under liquids, high gas pressures or buried solid-solid interfaces. A grazing incidence geometry provides surface sensitivity and a number of different measurements can reveal the layer structure, detailed atomic surface structure or the shape and size of nanoparticles on the sample. Surfaces are how materials interact with each other; they are critical in a huge number of disciplines including catalysis, battery development, lubrication and electronics amongst others. The surface structure has a critical influence on the properties.

The majority of my research focuses on surface x-ray diffraction from samples held in ultrahigh vacuum. This enables complex structures to be grown by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), where different materials are deposited on to a clean and highly oriented single crystal substrate. The equipment available allows surface x-ray diffraction to be correlated with other measurements including low energy electron diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and scanning tunnelling microscopy. I am specifically interested in the growth of thin film topological insulator films on different substrates and containing different dopants. These materials have conducting surfaces while their bulk is insulating; growing thin films enables the transition between the two states to be characterised as a function of film thickness. The MBE technique yields high quality films where integrating other materials is readily controlled. Additionally, complex structures such as multilayers can be created.

Organic thin films - Organic molecules can create ordered assemblies on the surface of a single crystal sample. These studies include determining the effect of chirality on the resultant structures and linking the structures to the preparation conditions. Coherent X-ray Diffraction - This study uses coherent x-rays at beamline I07 to study nanoparticles and the dynamics of nanostructure alloy formation. Novel battery materials - Understanding the structure and phase behaviour of novel rechargeable battery materials. Oxide surfaces - Important technological materials.

I lead the team that runs beamline I07 at Diamond; the x-ray diffraction station dedicated to studying surfaces and interfaces in a range of different environments. The role includes responsibility for all beamline equipment development and commissioning, scheduling, local contact duties and peripheral laboratory equipment amongst others. I am also the Village Coordinator for the Surfaces and Interfaces Village.

Collaborators - +


  • University of Manchester - Understanding the surface structure of oxide surfaces is important ifor a number of technological processes. Typically these surfaces are used in photocatalysts and the mechanism of operation is related to the surface structure. Surface diffraction is used to identify the structure and its dependence on the preparation conditions.
  • University of Cardiff - Catalysts are an important class of materials where the surface interaction with the gas is critical in producing the best conversion to the resultant product. This collaboration looks at one specific catalyst - iron molybdate and why it is such a good catalyst for methanol production.
  • University of Warwick - This project is to study thin film topological insulators and other complex materials such as half metallic ferromagnets. The correlation between the detailed surface structure and the electronic/magnetic behaviour is critical in understanding these materials. Generally the thin film structures are highly ordered, enabling high quality surface x-ray diffraction to be used to solve the surface structures.
Publications - +
  • Exploring the Use of a Synchrotron X-Ray Scattering Method to Investigate Nucleation Adam Brown , Hong Biao Dong , Paul Howes , Chris Nicklin Materials Science Forum (Vol: 765, Pages: 102 - 106) DOI: 10.4028/
  • Silicon Sigma13(501) grain boundary interface structure determined by bicrystal Bragg rod X-ray scattering P.B. Howes , S. Rhead , M Roy , Chris Nicklin , J.L. Rawle , C.A. Norris Acta Materialia (Vol: 61, Pages: 5694 - 5701) DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2013.06.011
  • Surface structure of Bi_{2}Se_{3}(111) determined by low-energy electron diffraction and surface x-ray diffraction Diogo Duarte Dos Reis , Lucas Barreto , Marco Bianchi , Guilherme Almeida Silva Ribeiro , Edmar Avellar Soares , Wendell Simões E Silva , Vagner Eustáquio De Carvalho , Jonathan Rawle , Moritz Hoesch , Chris Nicklin , Willians Principe Fernandes , Jianli Mi , Bo Brummerstedt Iversen , Philip Hofmann Physical Review B (Vol: 88) 041404 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.88.041404
  • Implementation of a beam deflection system for studies of liquid interfaces on beamline I07 at Diamond Thomas Arnold , Chris Nicklin , Jonathan Rawle , Trevor Bates , Brian Nutter , Gary Mcintyre , Martin Burt , John Sutter Journal Of Synchrotron Radiation (Vol: 19, Pages: 408-416) DOI: 10.1107/S0909049512009272
  • An investigation of the growth and removal of protective antimony caps for antimonide epilayers Simon Alcock , Mark Everard , Chris Nicklin , J Taylor , Colin Norris , S Bennett Thin Solid Films (Vol: 514, Pages: 198-203) DOI: 10.1016/j.tsf.2006.02.083
Biography - +

Chris Nicklin is the Principal Beamline Scientist for beamline I07, which is used to study the structure and morphology of surfaces and buried interfaces using X-ray scattering techniques. Prior to joining Diamond, Chris was a lecturer at the University of Leicester where his research focused on the growth and structure determination of alloy layers and understanding the dynamics of self-assembling nanocrystals. Chris has used both X-ray diffraction techniques and grazing incidence small angle x-ray scattering (GISAXS) to understand these processes at different length scales (atomic – 10 nanometres).

Chris' interest in surface physics began with his PhD research, which involved measuring valence changes in rare earth elements as their local environment was changed at the surface. He also used resonant photoemission to determine the decay channels in these elements before becoming interested in UHV in-situ surface x-ray diffraction to determine the structure of these and other surfaces with high accuracy. This aspect of his work has recently been used to study more complex surface reconstructions of rare-earth and transition metal alloys (e.g. GdFe2 on Mo(110)).

Chris' research expanded to include the application of X-ray scattering methods to determine the long range order of crystallites formed by self-assembling nanoparticles. This required the development of a small specialist scattering cell that was used to carry out the first GISAXS experiments on the UK beamline (XMaS) at the ESRF. Chris was able to ascertain how various parameters affected the quality of the ordering, including unexpected phase changes at low temperatures and the ability to force the particles together in layers formed on a Langmuir trough. Extensions to this work have included monitoring in-situ ligand exchange and the dynamics of aggregation when linker molecules are added.