On the 30th March Professor Ian Robinson, the Gregori Aminoff Prize Laureate of 2015, visited Lund in Southern Sweden for the Gregori Aminoff Prize symposium that was held in his honour. Professor Robinson gave the official prize lecture that coincided with the Academy’s annual meeting and was officially presented with the prize at the academy's annual award ceremony.
Professor Ian Robinson of the LCN was awarded the 2015 Gregori Aminoff Prize in Crystallography last autumn. The prize, conferred since 1979 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – the body that awards the Nobel prizes – recognises a documented, individual contribution in areas concerned with the dynamics of the formation and dissolution of crystal structures.
In its citation, the Academy highlighted Professor Robinson’s development of diffraction techniques for the investigation of surfaces and nanomaterials. The citation continued: “Professor Ian Robinson has made a number of pioneering contributions in the field of X-ray diffraction, which is a method used to determine the three-dimensional structure of a crystal. He is in the forefront when it comes to utilising the opportunities provided by increasingly advanced synchrotron light sources and free-electron lasers in the study of the electronic and structural properties of solids.”
Synchrotron radiation-based techniques use the high degree of coherence of light sources, i.e. the fact that the light waves are in phase with each other. Recent decades have seen the development of diffraction-based methods that allow detailed three-dimensional mapping of materials. As a pioneer of these methods, Professor Robinson has demonstrated how it is possible to obtain a three-dimensional representation of deformations and defects in nanomaterials. Using extremely short X-ray pulses from the LCLS (Linac Coherent Light Source) free-electron laser at Stanford, he and his colleagues have also shown how one can excite motion (phonons) of the atoms in individual nanoparticles and follow how these movements propagate in the particles.
Professor Robinson’s research during the 1980s involved X-ray diffraction techniques for the study of surfaces. X-ray radiation penetrates much further into a material than LEED (Low Energy Electron Diffraction), which uses electrons to create a diffraction pattern, and making the technique of X-ray diffraction sufficiently surface-sensitive to provide more exact results. Because X-rays penetrate further into a material, it is also possible to look inside a reaction cell and study the chemical processes occurring on a catalyst surface. Professor Robinson developed both experimental techniques and methods for interpreting the results, used at a number of the world’s foremost laboratories.
On the award of the prize, he commented: “I am deeply honoured to be recognised by this award, especially in the “International year of crystallography” and especially proud to join the company of extremely distinguished previous winners. Crystallography is a subject that is very much alive within a wide range of disciplines active at UCL, including physics, chemistry, biology, earth and materials sciences.”
In connection with Professor Robinson's receipt of the Gregori Aminoff Prize an autobiographical article has also been published in Physica Scripta, the Royal Swedish Academy's broad scope physics journal. This article tells the tale of Ian's life and work leading up to the prize.
Click here to read about Professor Robinson's life and world of crystals.
Photography by Markus Marcetic, © Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien.