Professor Roy Sambles

Exeter physicist awarded Faraday Medal

A physicist whose University of Exeter career spans 40 years has been awarded the Faraday Medal of the Institute of Physics. Professor Roy Sambles was presented with the prestigious award in recognition of his pioneering research in experimental condensed matter physics.

A Fellow of the Royal Society, Professor Roy Sambles has published 500 scientific papers in international journals, or as chapters in books. Having grown up in the village of St Dominick, near Callington in South East Cornwall, he first went to Imperial College London where he obtained a first class degree in Physics and also completed his doctorate. He joined the Physics department at the University of Exeter in October 1972.

Professor Sambles has an unusually broad record of pioneering research, spanning the physics behind displays on electronic devices, the colour of butterflies’ wings and anti-counterfeit technologies.

His early work concerned unravelling, using electron microscopy, the fundamentals of melting and the evaporation of nanoscale metal particles. In the 1980s and 90s he carried out groundbreaking work on the optics of liquid crystals, characterising many parameters of these key technological materials now used in billions of flat screen displays

In the late 90s he also opened up research into the way light interacts with structures found in nature, natural photonics, where, with colleagues, pioneering studies of the photonic structures in butterfly wings paved the way for new discoveries in this area. At the same time he continued his work on liquid crystals concentrating more recently on using optical techniques to explore the strange manner in which these fascinating materials flow.

His most recent work concerns metamaterials, man-made structures which have previously unrealisable properties, undertaking a range of pioneering studies in the use of these materials with microwaves, as well as with visible light. Much of this work is in collaboration with QinetiQ and has potential applications for security and anti-counterfeiting technologies.

Professor Roy Sambles said: “I am honoured and delighted, both personally and also on behalf of my research team, without whom most of the pioneering work we have undertaken would not have been possible, to receive this award named after one of the true technological pioneers, Michael Faraday.”

The Faraday medal of the Institute of Physics is awarded annually to a physicist of international reputation in any sector. Established as the Guthrie Medal and Prize in 1966, its name was changed in 2008. Previous recipients include high profile scientists such as Professor Sir Martin Rees (Baron Rees of Ludlow) and Professor Dame Athene Donald.

Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Professor Ken Evans, said: “I would like to congratulate Roy on winning this prestigious award. His work over the last 40 years has played a key role in helping the University of Exeter establish a reputation for groundbreaking science. He continues to undertake highly original experimental physics research and is taking our work in this area from strength to strength.”

Date: 4 July 2012

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