School of Physics & Astronomy

Image of Philip Moriarty

Philip Moriarty

Professor of Physics, Faculty of Science



I'm a Professor of Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham. My research interests span a number of topical themes in nanometre scale science with a particular current focus on single atom/molecule manipulation using scanning probes. My ORCID profile includes a full list of publications and grant awards.

I've a keen interest in outreach activities, primary and secondary education, and both science and higher education funding policy. (See the "Beyond the ivory tower" tab). In addition to participating in a number of research council-funded public engagement projects (including Giants of the Infinitesimal), I've been interviewed, and written for, The Independent, The Guardian, Times Higher Education, BBC Radio 4, Die Zeit, and The Economist amongst others. I'm also a regular contributor to the Sixty Symbols YouTube project.

Although I don't share my infamous namesake's fascination with the binomial theorem, in my spare time I enjoy 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

Teaching Summary

Current Teaching

  • From October 2014: "Politics, Philosophy and Physics". (F34PPP)

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


Along with quite a number of my colleagues at Nottingham, I collaborate with the exceptionally talented, tireless, and, errrm, Australian film-maker Brady Haran on a number of his very successful YouTube projects including Sixty Symbols and Numberphile. This Physics World article describes what it's like to work with Brady and why it's both fun and rewarding to make videos and connect with a broad audience of fans of science via YouTube.

TEDx and guilty confessions

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the TEDx event in Derby in 2014 alongside some very inventive and engaging people. (See this blog post by Pete Mosley, a fellow speaker, for a neat summary of the day). My talk was called "Guilty Confessions of a YouTube Scientist".

Science and Politics

One of the things that really gets my goat -- or, if you're perhaps reading this on the other side of the pond, grinds my gears -- is the extent to which academic research is increasingly being driven by near-term, near-market, corporate and utilitarian goals (all in the name of something called 'impact'). I've banged on about this topic at length in a number of fora, including physicsfocus , The Economist (online), and The Independent. I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to be a member of the programme committee for a rather unusual conference we held in Nottingham in May 2014, entitled "Circling the Square: Research, Media, Politics, and Impact". This conference prompted a great deal of discussion and debate between scientists and sociologists. Music I'm a Rush fan. A big Rush fan. And a fan of lesser forms of progressive rock and metal (amongst other genres).

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 Nanoscience Group's website and at the ACRITAS site. ACRITAS is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network focused on science at the single bond limit.

See also these videos:

<a href=""> Atomic Switch </a>

<a href=""> The Sound of Atoms Bonding </a>

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

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