Advanced Materials Research Group

Image of Karen Robertson

Karen Robertson

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering



I began as an Anne McLaren fellow in the Advanced Materials Research Group (AMRG) in 2018. I am ultimately interested in how solid-state materials assemble and function and how we can use enabling technologies to uncover these fundamental properties and improve them for chosen applications. My research primarily includes the development of milli-fluidic technologies with integrated inline analysis for the control and understanding of self-assembly systems. This includes whole-process control and understanding through synthesis and assembly of materials.

Recently we have developed a series of flow reactors for controlled cooling crystallisation of crystalline materials with inline structural analysis (Raman spectroscopy, powder and single-crystal XRD - in collaboration with Diamond Light Source). Using these reactors we can uncover the self-assembly mechanism of materials as they are growing in environments which can be used for mg-kg production scale.

I completed my PhD at Imperial College London in 2012 focussing on targeting interconnected metal-organic framework (MOF) architectures through multi-podal ligand design. After this I worked closely with industry in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Clariant Oil Services and the University of Leeds developing new corrosion inhibitors and improved in vivo test methodology for the oil and gas industry. In 2013 I joined the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing for Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation (CMAC, now a Future Manufacturing Hub) at the University of Bath focussing on crystal engineering techniques for agrochemical optimisation and the development of lab-based flow crystallisers.

PhD studentships and Postdoctoral Fellowships

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students and postdocs.

UK and EU Students with an excellent academic record may be eligible for a Faculty of Engineering PhD studentship. Please contact me if you would like to develop a project together. I also welcome enquiries from overseas students and postdocs who have identified potential funding routes.

Current open studentships:

Exploring crystallisation through flow technologies with in situ monitoring - This studentship is joint funded with Diamond Light Source and will include co-placement at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site.

Research Summary

I am interested in using flow technologies to understand and control how self-assembling systems come together using a range of different flow regimes such as liquid-segmented, single phase turbulent… read more

Current Research

I am interested in using flow technologies to understand and control how self-assembling systems come together using a range of different flow regimes such as liquid-segmented, single phase turbulent and laminar flow. The properties of a material are often dictated by its structure but simply investigating the link between structure and property without understanding how it self-assembles does not allow us to make the desired material. By monitoring the self-assembling system non-invasively with online analytical techniques we can develop self-assembly mechanistic understanding of how these materials come together. Using this insight we can target materials of desire structure.

I am developing a range of crystallisers for specific materials self-assembly types such as cooling, pH, reactive and anti-solvent crystallisation. These crystallisers can either be directly used with online analytical techniques such as confocal Raman spectroscopy or the design adapted for techniques such as online X-Ray diffraction.

The KRAIC (Kinetically Regulated Automated Input Crystalliser) employs tri-segmented flow to impart plug flow, prevent encrustation and induce mixing. It can be configured for cooling, pH, reactive or anti-solvent crystallisation and has spawned a series of different crystallisers with collaborators at the University of Leeds and Diamond Light Source; the KRAIC-I (integrated flow synthesis and crystallisation), the KRAIC-R (online Raman Spectroscopy), the KRAIC-D (online powder X-ray diffraction at I11 Diamond Light Source) and the KRAIC-S (online single crystal X-ray diffraction at I19 Diamond Light Source).

My materials focus is broad ranging encompassing pure phase polymorphic small molecule organics, co-crystals, coordination polymers and MOFs.

Advanced Materials Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD