School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Alton Horsfall

Reader in Semiconductor Technology



Dr Alton Horsfall joined the department in August 1999 as a research associate developing high temperature power electronics using silicon carbide. He previously completed his degree and Ph.D. at the physics department at the University of Durham where he investigated the effect of quantum mechanical exchange mechanisms in diluted magnetic semiconductors at mK temperatures. Alton then worked for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency before moving to Newcastle.  During his time at the University he spent nine months on a Royal Academy of Engineering secondment to BAE Systems Submarine Solutions in Barrow in Furness, where he worked as part of the Instrumentation and Calibration Services team.

He is currently Reader in Semiconductor Technology and is leading the research into resilient electronic systems for high temperature hostile environments, such as those found in aerospace, defence and oil and gas exploration.  His expertise is based on the application of science to solve engineering problems and he is active in all aspects of extreme environment technology from quantum mechanical simulation of defects to the failure of complex circuits.   In addition to his continued work on power electronic systems, he is developing a variety of sensor based circuits, which can selectively detect a range of pollutant gases at temperatures above 300C, as well as communications systems, oscillators, amplifiers and self starting boost converters for energy harvesting applications.  Other projects include the development of energy management system for aircraft to mitigate the effect of lightning strike and current sharing in superconducting power networks for the next generation of electric aircraft.

As of the 1st of October 2017, he has taken up a Senior Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering to investigate the electrical detection of spins from quantum defects in SiC devices with a view to quantum commutation and sensing in collaboration with colleagues at Herriot Watt University.

His research is supported by a number of industrial collaborators, including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, IsoCom, Littelfuse and Raytheon UK, as well as EPSRC and Innovate UK.  

To date he has won four best paper prizes, the IEEE International Conference on Microelectronic Test Structures (2004), the IEEE Power Electronics Conference at Illinois (2012), the deBeers Diamond Conference (2012) and IEEE Sensors (2012).  He is a member of the Technical Program Committee at the annual IEEE Sensors Conference and a member of the EPSRC College.


Alton is a member of the Emerging Technology and Materials research group and his profile can be viewed on  Google Scholar.

Research Interests

By utilising novel semiconductor materials, including graphene, silicon carbide, diamond and molybdenum disulphide, research is investigating the possibility of placing electronic devices and circuits in hostile environments from jet engines to volcanoes and nuclear reactors to outerspace.  Recent developments include wireless communications operating at over 300C, highly responsive gas and solvent sensors and energy harvesting technologies.  Projects involve aspects of materials science, device design and fabrication, simulation and test to understand how the desired device characteristics can be realised from these materials.  Projects are often in conjunction with leading UK companies, including BAE Systems, Raytheon UK, Rolls Royce and Dynex Semiconductors.

Potential PhD Research Projects

  • Active Sensors for Extreme Environments
  • Novel sensors utilising two dimensional semiconductors, MoS2 and graphene
  • Gas sensors for real time analysis of the Venus atmosphere
  • Current limiting devices for aerospace applications
  • JFET / CMOS integration for high fidelity instrumentation in extreme environments
  • Ultra high efficiency power converters using silicon carbide technology
The School website has more information on research degrees and funding.


Undergraduate Teaching

EEE1009 - Communications and Innovation

EEE3016 - Optoelectronics

PHY3010 - Fundamental Physics IIIB

Postgraduate Teaching

EEE8010 - Optoelectronics

Project Supervision

Stage 2 buggy team, stage 3 undergraduate and MSc projects in semiconductor technology

Coursework Projects

Study projects in artificial neuronal circuits and extended coursework in resilient optical communication systems