Stephen Thompson


Principal Beamline Scientist for I11


Techniques and Disciplines

Key Research Interests

  • Astrophysics
  • Astromineralogy
  • Cosmic Dust
  • Planetary materials
  • Mineralisation and structural evolution
  • Non-ambient conditions

Dr Stephen Thompson is the Principal Beamline Scientist for I11, having joined Diamond from the Daresbury Laboratory synchrotron radiation source in 2005.

Main area of interest

Processing and evolution of solid phase minerals and materials in circumstellar, interstellar, protoplanetary and planetary environments through laboratory investigation.

Through the use of laboratory analogue materials my research work focuses on understanding the physical properties and evolution of the most primitive and original forms of solid matter in the universe that ultimately formed the building blocks of the solar system, the planets and life on Earth.


X-ray powder diffraction, total scattering (XPDF), small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAFS), FTIR and Raman spectroscopy.


Research Topics

Image Research Topics
  • synthesis and characterisation of spectro-structural relationships in amorphous and nanoscale silicates
  • mineralisation pathways in cosmic dust and planetary materials under non-ambient conditions (thermal annealing, gas flow/pressure interactions, humidity etc.)
  • low-temperature aqueous precipitation of hydrated mineral phases in the saline ice-water environments of ocean worlds
  • stability and dissociation of gas hydrates (clathrates ) in saline conditions on planetary bodies 
  • interaction of pre-biotic molecules with inorganic amorphous and crystalline dust grains and salt precipitates, astrobiological materials and biomineralisation 

Selected Research Publications

  • Laboratory exploration of mineral precipitates from Europa's subsurface ocean Thompson SP, Kennedy H, Butler BM, Day SY, Safi E, Evans A. Journal of Applied Crystallography 54, 1455 (2021)
  • Amorphous Mg-Fe silicates from microwave-dried sol-gels: Multi-scale structure, mid-IR spectroscopy and thermal crystallisation. Thompson SP, Herlihy A, Murray CAM et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics 624, A136 (2019)
  • X-ray powder diffraction study of the stability of clathrate hydrates in the presence of salts with relevance to the Martian cryosphere. Safi E, Thompson SP, Evans A et al. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 245, 304 (2019)
  • A slow-cooling-rate in situ cell for long-duration studies of mineral precipitation in cold aqueous environments on Earth and other planetary bodies. Thompson SP, Kennedy, H, Day SJ et al. Journal of Applied Crystallography 51, 1197 (2018)
  • Properties of CO2 clathrate hydrates formed in the presence of MgSO4 solutions with implications for icy moons. Safi E, Thompson SP, Evans et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics 600, A88, (2017) 
  • Amorphous silicate nanoparticles with controlled Fe-Mg pyroxene compositions. Thompson SP, Demyk K, Day SJ et al. Journal of Non-crystalline Solids 447, 255 (2016) 
  • In situ apparatus for the study of clathrate hydrates relevant to solar system bodies using synchrotron radiation and Raman spectroscopy. Day SJ, Thompson SP, Evans A et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics 574, A91 (2015)
  • Thermal breakdown of calcium carbonate and constraints on its use as a biomarker. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Tang CC. Icarus 229, 1 (2014)
  • Photoluminescence in amorphous MgSiO3 silicate. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Day SJ et al. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 434, 2582 (2013)
  • Thermal processing and crystallization of amorphous Mg-Ca silicates. Day SJ, Thompson SP, Evans A et al. Meteoritics & Planetary Science 48, 1459 (2013)
  • Non-aqueous formation of the calcium carbonate polymorph vaterite: astrophysical implications. Day SJ, Thompson SP, Parker JE et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics 553, A68 (2013)
  • The 10 um band in amorphous MgSiO3: the influence of medium-range structure, defects and thermal processing. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Tang CC. Astronomy & Astrophysics 545, A60 (2012)
  • Fine-grained amorphous calcium silicate CaSiO3 from vacuum dried sol-gel – production, characterisation and thermal behaviour. Thompson SP, Day SJ, Parker JE, et al. Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 358, 885 (2012)
  • Morphological templating of metastable calcium carbonates by the amino acid leucine. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Street SR et al. Journal of Physics: Conference Series 286, 012030 (2011)
  • A study of the aragonite-calcite transformation using Raman spectroscopy, synchrotron powder diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Parker JE, Thompson SP, Lennie AR et al. Crystengcomm 12, 1590 (2010)
  • The ikaite to vaterite transformation: New evidence from diffraction and imaging. Tang CC, Thompson SP, Parker JE, et al. Journal of Applied Crystallography, 42, 225 (2009)
  • Structural signatures of medium-range order in annealed laboratory silicates. Thompson SP. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 484, 251, (2008)
  • Crystallisation processes in cosmic silicates: Progress towards understanding structural-spectral relationships. Thompson SP, Verrienti C, Fonti S, et al. Advances in Space Research, 39, 375, (2007)
  • The structure and thermal expansion behaviour of ikaite, CaC03.6H2O, from T=110 to T=295 K. Lennie AR, Tang CC, Thompson SP. Mineralogical Magazine, 68, 135 (2004)
  • Crystalline comet dust: laboratory experiments on a simple silicate system. Thompson SP, Fonti S, Verrienti C, et al. Meteoritics & Planetary Science 38, no. 3, 457 (2003)
  • Laboratory study of annealed amorphous MgSiO3 using IR spectroscopy and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. Thompson SP, Fonti S, Verrienti C, et al. Astronomy & Astrophysics 395, 705 (2002)
  • Laboratory investigation of crystallisation in annealed amorphous MgSiO3. Thompson SP and Tang CC. Astronomy & Astrophysics 368, 721 (2001)
  • 10 µm silicate bands and the structure of grains. Thompson SP. Astrophysical Letters & Communications 33, 299 (1996)
  • Structural evolution in thermally processed silicates. Thompson SP, Evans A, Jones AP. Astronomy & Astrophysics 308, 309 (1996)
  • Si-O Stretch modes in amorphous silicates. Thompson SP. Astrophysics & Space Science 224, 575 (1995)
  • The 2175Å interstellar extinction feature. Thompson SP. Contemporary Physics 34, 317 (1993)

Synchrotron Beamline Publications

  • New Synchrotron Powder Diffraction Facility for Long Duration Experiments. CA Murray, J Potter, SJ Day, AR Baker, SP Thompson, J Kelly, CG Morris, S Yang, H Kennedy and CC Tang. Journal of Applied Crystallography 50, 172 (2017)
  • Advances in synchrotron X-Ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy techniques for the investigation of microstructure evolution in proton- and neutron-irradiated zirconium alloys. A Harte, T Seymour, EM Francis, P Frankel, SP Thompson, D Jadernas, J Romero, L Hallstadius, M Preuss. Journal of Materials Research 30, 1349 (2015)

  • Dynamic strain propagation in nano-particulate zirconia refractory studied by pump-probe in-situ X-ray powder diffraction. ME Jones, S Fearn, R Winter, AR Lennie, J Parker, SP Thompson, CC Tang. Journal of Applied Crystallography 48, 386 (2015)

  • Low temperature Debye-Scherrer powder diffraction on beamline I11 at Diamond. Potter J, Parker JE, Street S, Lennie AR, Thompson SP, Tang CC. Journal of Applied Crystallography 46, 826 (2013)

  • A high resolution synchrotron powder diffraction study of substituted gallium ferrites using flat plate fixed angle of incidence geometry on beamline I11 at Diamond. SHM Ryding, F Azough, R Freer, RJ Cernik, CC Tang, SP Thompson. Journal of Applied Crystallography 45, 174 (2012)

  • In situ gas supply system on the powder diffraction beamline I11 at Diamond Light Source. Parker JE, Potter J, Thompson SP, Lennie AR, Tang CC. Materials Science Forum, 706-707, 1707 (2012)

  • In situ measurement of gas-solid interactions in astrophysical & planetary analogues. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Day SJ, Evans A, Tang CC. European Astronomical Society Publications Series 58, 225 (2012)

  • Fast X-ray powder diffraction on I11 at Diamond. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Marchal J, Potter J, Birt A, Yuan F, Fearn RD, Lennie AR, Street, S, Tang CC. Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 18, 637 (2011)

  • High throughput powder diffraction on beamline I11 at Diamond. Parker JE, Thompson SP, Cobb TM, Yuan F, Potter J, Lennie AR, Alexander S, Tighe CJ, Darr JA, Cockcroft JC, Tang CC. Journal of Applied Crystallography 44, 102 (2011)

  • Characterisation of wax as a potential diffraction intensity standard for MX beamlines. Brando-Neto J, Tang CC, Thompson SP, Lennie AR, Ferreira FF. Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 17, 53 (2010)

  • Beamline I11 at Diamond – A new instrument for high resolution powder diffraction. Thompson SP, Parker JE, Hill TP, Wilken GR, Cobb TM, Yuan F, Tang CC. Review of Scientific Instruments 80, 075107, (2009)

  • High Performance X-ray detectors for the new powder diffraction beamline I11 at Diamond. Tartoni N, Thompson SP, Tang CC, Willis B, Derbyshire GE, Wright AG, Jaye SC, Homer JM, Pizzey JD, Bell AMT. Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, 15, 43 (2008)

  • Design of powder diffraction beamline I11 at Diamond. Tang CC, Thompson SP, Hill TP, Wilkin GR, Wagner UH. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie supplement 26, 153 (2007)

  • X-ray Beam characteristics on MPW6.2 at the SRS. Tang CC, Martin CM, Laundy D, Thompson SP, Diakun GP. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 222, 659 (2004)

  • Software for automatic calibration of synchrotron powder diffractometers. Laundy D, Tang C, Roberts M, Miller M, Thompson S, Bushnell-Wye G. Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 10, 183 (2003)

  • An apparatus for measuring soft X-ray magnetic scattering. Roper MD, van der Laan G, Durr HA, Dudzik E, Collins SP, Miller MC, Thompson SP. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A vol 467-468, 1101, (2001)

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