School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr James Dawson

NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT)

Background

Biography 

 

Like Slash, Lemmy, Wedgwood and Mitchell before him, James grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, famous for oatcakes, pottery and darts players. He obtained his BSc Chemistry degree from Keele University in 2009. He then moved to Sheffield to undertake his PhD under the supervision of Professors John Harding and Derek Sinclair. After completing his studies, James was awarded a prestigious JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship at Kyoto University, which allowed him to achieve his ambition of living and working in Japan. Upon conclusion of his fellowship, James returned to the UK to take up a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge, followed by a stint at the University of Bath, before joining Newcastle University as a NUAcT Fellow in January 2020. His research utilises state-of-the-art computational modelling techniques to improve the fundamental understanding of energy materials and their interfaces for current and future applications. 

 

A full list of James's publications is available at Google Scholar and he is also on Twitter and Facebook.  

 

There are a number of PhD and postdoctoral funding opportunities available to work in the Dawson group. Please drop James an email if you are interested!

 

Prizes and Awards

 

2020 Newcastle University Academic Track Fellowship

2019 Ede and Ravenscroft Research Staff Prize, University of Bath

2018 STFC Futures Early Career Award

2018 Award winning abstract for AIP Interfaces in Energy Materials, University of Cambridge

2015 Postdoctoral Research Prize, Kyoto University 

2013 JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship

2009 Gurnos Jones Prize, Keele University

2008 Harold Springall Prize, Keele University 

2008 Best Student Prize, Keele University

 

Professional Memberships and Roles

 

Energy theme lead for the Newcastle University Centre for Energy 

Editorial board member for Energies

Expert panel member for Innoviris (Brussels Institute for Research and Innovation)

EPSRC Associate Peer College Member

Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, MRSC

Member of the Materials Research Society

Research

As famously stated by Prof. Herbert Kroemer during his lecture for receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics 2000, “the interface is the device”. This sentiment is now stronger than ever, particularly for energy storage and generation devices, which are heavily dependent on both the complex heterogenous interfaces formed by the combination of materials and the intrinsic interfaces that exist within materials.

 

The Dawson group employs computational modelling techniques to improve the fundamental understanding and performance of material structures and properties for energy storage and generation applications. Our particular expertise lies in interatomic potentials-based molecular dynamics and density functional theory methods, with the aim of describing ion transport at the interfaces within and between materials for current and next-generation battery architectures, photovoltaics and fuel cells. With the rise of supercomputing power and the need to analyse enormous datasets for the discovery of novel and improved materials, the necessity for computational materials science has never been greater.

 

Solid-State Batteries

In the critical area of sustainable energy storage, solid-state batteries have attracted considerable attention due to their potential safety, energy-density and cycle-life benefits. Our research addresses key issues in the areas of multiscale ion transport across the various interfaces present in these next-generation devices.

 

A reasonable understanding of ion transport in the bulk solid electrolyte materials at the heart of this promising technology has been achieved through the combined efforts of both experimental and computational researchers, with their conductivity matching and even exceeding that of their liquid counterparts. However, this is not the case for the interfaces of these materials, which now represent the bottlenecks for ion transport and the overall performance of solid-state batteries.

 

Hybrid Perovskites for Solar Cells, Optoelectronics and Memristors

As a result of their processing advantages, remarkable efficiency and the abundance of their component elements, perovskite solar cells are on track to become mass-produced with multiple start-ups in the UK. These materials also exhibit optoelectronic properties similar to gallium arsenide, but can also be printed. Furthermore, several resistive switching mechanisms of halide perovskite memristors have been proposed.

 

Understanding ion migration is essential to maximise the performance of a number of perovskite-based devices.  In solar cells,  ion migration determines the hysteresis of the system, while for memristors, it is responsible for the switching behaviour. Our group focuses on understanding and enhancing or reducing (depending on the application) ion transport in hybrid perovskite materials and their interfaces.

 

Next-Generation Oxide-Ion and Proton Conductors

Oxide ion and proton-conducting materials are of great interest due to their application as electrolytes in solid-oxide fuel cells and proton ceramic fuel cells. Fuel cells offer a viable option to produce clean energy from sustainable resources, with low emission of pollutants and high energy conversion rates. The development of next-generation electrolyte materials possessing good ionic conduction at intermediate temperatures (300–600 °C) has led to the discovery of high oxide-ion conductivity in several structural families. High temperature proton conduction has also been reported for many materials, which show proton conductivity when exposed to water vapour or hydrogen-rich atmospheres.

 

We utilise a range of atomic-scale computational techniques, with support from experimental collaborators, to study the structural, electronic, defect, doping, hydration and ion transport properties of new and promising oxide-ion and proton conducting materials for state-of-the-art fuel cell applications. 

Teaching

Modules

CHY8511 MChem Research Projects

CHY3011 Literature Review Projects

 

Student Projects

Various projects available focused on the atomic-scale simulation (primarily density functional theory and molecular dynamics) of energy materials, including batteries, fuel cells and solar cells. 

 

Supervision

  • Frazer Forrester, PhD (Newcastle)
  • Joe Skilbeck-Dunn, MChem (Newcastle)
  • Abigail Puckey, MChem (Newcastle)
  • Matthew Clarke, PhD (Bath)
  • Bernherd Stanje, PhD (Bath)
  • Xu Li, MSc (Sheffield)
  • Farzin Golkhosh, MSc (Sheffield)

Publications