Matthew conducts his research as part of the Defect Dynamics Group. Research conducted in the group is concerned with understanding the properties and dynamics of defects in crystals, particularly those in structural materials for extreme environments such as next-generation fission and fusion reactors (see Materials for Fusion and Fission Power group homepage). The group develops mathematical and computational models for materials at the mesoscale, i.e. lengthscales of the order of 100s of nanometres to 100s of microns. These models aim to bridge the gap between the smaller realms of atomistic and electronic calculations with the larger scales of engineering interest.
The image was taken during one of the intermediary steps in creating a TEM (Transmission Electron Microscope) sample. The sample had just been attached to a copper grid and was about to be thinned using a focussed ion-beam of accelerated gallium ions. The “peacock” is the remains of the needle that was used to transport the sample from the large bulk material, to the smaller copper grid. TEM samples are used to investigate the micro-structure of materials, allowing one to see things like impurities, grains and many other things that are otherwise invisible, but give the material all of its properties.