Dr Neil Curson

tel: 07942 580984
fax: +44 (0)20 7679 0595


Research interests:

Controlled placement and imaging of dopants in semiconductors
Study and control of chemical reactions at surfaces
Development of scanning probe lithography techniques
Fabrication of novel materials by molecular manipulation


  • Lecturer in Nanotechnology, University College London (2007-present)
  • Senior Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, Australia (2000-2007)
  • Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, UK (1997-2000)
  • Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Rutgers University, NJ, USA (1996)
  • Ph.D. in Physics, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (1995)
  • B Sc in Physics, University of Leicester (1990)




My prime research interests are centred around understanding and controlling the physics of nano and atomic scale processes that occur at surfaces. This includes fundamental research into the behaviour of atoms and molecules at surfaces and the development and deployment of new nanolithographic techniques, strongly impacting on the fabrication of nanoscale electronic devices and atomic-scale components for quantum computers.

Describing my research into atomic manipulation with STM to Dr Brendan Nelson, Australian Minister for Defence.

The controlled incorporation of phosphorus in silicon with atomic-scale precision: STM images show rows of hydrogen terminated silicon dimers. The left cross-hairs show an area where hydrogen has been deliberately removed by the STM tip. After exposing the surface to phosphine gas and heating to 350ºC, a single phosphorus atom is incorporated in the surface, see right cross-hairs.

These two sequences of STM images show how subtle differences in reaction pathways can drastically effect surface processes. When PH3 adsorbs on a surface it spontaneously dissociates to PH2+H. Whether the P atom becomes trapped at one place on the surface or is free to wander around depends on whether the PH2 fragment diffuses before falling apart.

A device fabricated using atomic force microscope (AFM) lithography. Just (25nm) below the surface of this GaAs wafer is a 2-D sheet of electrons. A narrow 1-D channel is defined in this sheet by local depletion using the AFM. Depletion is achieved by forming an oxide below the tip of the AFM (a process known as local anodic oxidation) and tracing out the lines seen in the image. Electrons travel ballistically through the channel due to their long free mean path in GaAs and form widely spaced sub-bands due to their confinement within the 1-D channel, resulting in unexpectedly high operating temperatures.

Research Highlights

Scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) images of the quantum states of an artifici
By introducing individual silicon atom ‘defects’ using a scanning tunnelling microscope, scientists at the...
Traditionally, phosphorus and arsenic atoms have been used as donors in silicon, donating electrons that make up the current...

This academic year I am teaching the undergraduate course ELEC1011: Circuit Analysis & Synthesis I. I have previously taught the undergraduate course Solid State Physics (PHYS3080) and postgraduate course Advanced Semiconductor Devices (ELEC9501) at University of New South Wales, Australia. I have also developed new undergraduate laboratory experiments i.e. Studying the kinetics of graphite oxidation using a STM - An undergraduate laboratory experiment, N.J. Curson, et al., European Journal of Physics, 20 453 (1999).

General News

Researchers at the LCN at both UCL and Imperial College London have been awarded just over £4M from the EPSRC for a new Centre for Doctoral Training in the Advanced Characterisation of Materials (ACM). Advanced Characterisation of Materials is fundamental to the development of new products...
The world’s first low cost Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) has been developed in Beijing by a group of PhD students from University College London (UCL), Tsinghua University and Peking University - using LEGO.  In the first event of its kind, LEGO2NANO brought together students,...