School of Physics & Astronomy

Image of Philip Moriarty

Philip Moriarty

Professor of Physics, Faculty of Science



Philip Moriarty is a Professor of Physics and an Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham. His research interests span a number of topical themes in nanometre scale science with a particular current focus on single atom/molecule manipulation. He has coordinated a number of multi-partner European networks (including, most recently, ACRITAS), and is currently Chair of the Institute of Physics Nanoscale Physics and Technology Group committee, a member of the Science Board of the Institute of Physics, and was a member of the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Team for Physics from 2005 - 2006.

Moriarty has a keen interest in outreach activities and both science and higher education funding policy. In addition to participating in a number of research council-funded public engagement projects (including Giants of the Infinitesimal), and his membership of the Steering Committee of the Council for the Defence of British Universities, he has interacted with national and international media (including The Independent, The Guardian, Times Higher Education, BBC Radio 4, Die Zeit, and The Economist) on these issues. He is also a regular contributor to Nottingham's Sixty Symbols YouTube project which has, as of December 2012, attracted a little over 15 million views (across 200 videos).

Although he does not share his infamous namesake's fascination with the binomial theorem, in his spare time Moriarty enjoys exploring the relationships between mathematics/physics and music

Career History

  • 2005 - present Professor of Physics, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham [EPSRC Leadership Fellow from 2008 - 2014]
  • 2003 - 2005 Reader, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham
  • 1997 - 2003 Lecturer, Department of Physics, University of Nottingham
  • 1994 - 1997 Postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Physics, University of Nottingham [Research supervisor: Prof. PH Beton]
  • 1990 - 1994 PhD, School of Physical Sciences, Dublin City University [Supervisor: Prof. Greg Hughes]

Expertise Summary

  • Single atom/molecule imaging, manipulation, and spectroscopy using scanning probes. [ An Atomic Switch (Sixty Symbols video); Flipping The World's Smallest Light Switch (ScienceNow). Example publication: Toggling Bistable Atoms via Mechanical Switching of Bond Angle, A. Sweetman et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 106 136101 (2011).]
  • Self-organisation and pattern formation in nanostructured systems. [See Foam Physics. Example publication: Coerced Mechanical Coarsening of Nanoparticle Assemblies, MO Blunt et al, Nature Nanotechnology 2 167 (2007)]
  • Molecular self-assembly and intermolecular interactions. [Example publication: Precise Orientation of a Single C60 Molecule on the Tip of a Scanning Probe Microscope, C. Chiutu et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 108 268302 (2012)]
  • Synchrotron-based spectroscopy of hybrid organic-inorganic systems. [Example publication: Does an Encapsulated Atom 'Feel' the Effects of Adsorption?: X-ray Standing Wave Spectroscopy of Ce@C​82 on Ag(111), RAJ Woolley et al., Nano Lett. 4 361 (2004)]

Teaching Summary

Current Teaching

F31FIP Frontiers of Physics. 1st year module. Lecture and tutorial videos uploaded at my YouTube channel.

Previous Teaching

F31ST1 Thermal and Kinetic Physics

F32SMS Applications of Fourier Analysis

F33AS5 Atoms and Molecules at Surfaces

F32EX2 2nd year Undergraduate Laboratory. [2nd year lab. organiser from 1997 - 2004. See Graphical Computing In The Undergraduate Laboratory, P. Moriarty et al., Am. J. Phys. 71 1062 (2003)]

F31YL1 Year 1 Error Analysis lectures

F34NIN Introduction to Nanotechnology

F34CHA Physical Characterisation of Nanostructures

Research Summary

My current research primarily involves imaging, spectroscopy, and manipulation down to the single chemical bond level using dynamic force microscopy under ultrahigh vacuum conditions and at cryogenic… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

My current research primarily involves imaging, spectroscopy, and manipulation down to the single chemical bond level using dynamic force microscopy under ultrahigh vacuum conditions and at cryogenic temperatures (77 K / 5 K). We largely focus on clean and adorbate-covered silicon surfaces, but have an increasing interest in insulating substrates. Overviews of the type of projects in which we're involved are available at the ACRITAS website. ACRITAS is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network focused on science at the single bond limit.

Past Research

(1) Self-organisation in nanostructured systems. Colloidal nanoparticle solutions produce a remarkably wide variety of intricate and striking non-equilibrium patterns. Scanning probe microscopy coupled with quantitative image analysis/morphometry and Monte Carlo simulations has bben used to study (and, in some cases, control) pattern formation and evolution in these systems. The dynamics of dewetting plays a central role in the assembly of nanoparticle arrays from solution and our work focussed on controlling just how the solvent wets and subsequently dewets the substrate.

(2) Electrons in Molecular Assemblies. We extensively used synchrotron radiation spectroscopies (photoemission, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and X-ray standing wave spectroscopy) to study the interactions and electronic properties of fullerenes (including endohedral, functionalised, and "on-cage" doped species) and phthalocyanines with semiconductor and metal surfaces.

(3) Scanning probe instrument development. The Nottingham Nanoscience group has a track record in developing constructing scanning probe instruments (including SPM controllers). For example, a hybrid scanning near field optical microscope (SNOM)- scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) instrument, based on imaging using indium tin oxide-coated fibreoptic tips, was developed in the group.

For more details see the Nanoscience Group website.

School of Physics and Astronomy

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 [0]115 951 5183
fax: +44 [0]115 951 5180
email: physics-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk