2012 Faraday medal

Professor J R Sambles, University of Exeter.

For his pioneering research in experimental condensed matter physics.

Roy Sambles has an unusually broad record of pioneering research which he has then passed on to younger colleagues to allow them fully to develop their own careers. 

His early work concerned unravelling, using electron microscopy, the fundamentals of melting and evaporation of metal particles. 

He then went on to explore Conduction Electron Spin Resonance and provided definitive studies at low temperatures of spin waves in alkali metals, working with colleagues in the USA. 

He simultaneously completed original studies of the resistivity of thin metal films before moving his research into the optics domain in the early 80s. 

Here (in the 80s and 90s) he developed novel guided wave studies of the optics of liquid crystals characterising many parameters of these key technological materials as well as leading work in the UK on the then very new area of plasmonics.

At the same time he undertook pioneering studies of molecular rectifiers taking out the world’s first patent on a single molecule rectifier structure with workers at the GTE Corporation in Boston and authored a key scientific paper in this area. 

His work on plasmonics in the visible evolved into studies at longer wavelengths and is now centred around ‘spoof’ surface plasmons at microwave frequencies and the general area of electromagnetic metamaterials.

In the late 90s he also opened up research into natural photonics where his pioneering studies of the photonic structures in butterfly wings paved the way for new research in this area. 

At the same time he continued his work on liquid crystals concentrating recently on using optical techniques to explore the flow dynamics of these fascinating anisotropic fluids.