Wayne is a lecturer in Experimental Nanoscience at King’s College London. He is a Co-investigator on Reactive Plasmonics and kindly volunteered to be the first person to be interviewed for the ‘Investigator Spotlight’ feature.
What excites you the most about this research programme?
What’s not to get excited about!? The optical generation of hot electrons is a relatively new field of study, and understanding the underlying physics is, in itself, exciting, but of course, one cannot help looking forward to the unforeseen applications. Plasmonically generated hot electrons have already shown promise in a number of important areas, not least water splitting for hydrogen generation, but there’s much more to come. As we continue to develop our understanding of the mechanisms involved, it will enable us to optimise and design new nanophotonic and metamaterial architectures with a significant improvement in performance. From a personal perspective, harnessing the properties of new plasmonic materials (such as topological insulators) in a completely new way represents an incredible opportunity for any scientist in the field of nano-optics.
What is your particular research area?
My main research focus is the development and characterisation of new nanophotonic structures and plasmonic metamaterials.
That’s a secret!
Joking aside, I’m currently investigating metamaterials with a strong optical response from the deep ultraviolet to visible wavelengths using both conventional and unconventional approaches, as well as novel plasmonic metamaterials tailored to exploit hot electron processes. In order for these materials to have a sustainable impact, most of the fabrication approaches that I investigate tend to be inexpensive and scalable, a task that’s not terribly straightforward on the nanoscale.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
What? Work stops? I don’t have much time to devote to outside interests, but when I do have some free time I enjoy playing guitar, as well as building audio electronics as a hobby, which ties in well with my guitar playing. I’m also a keen runner, which helps me keep up with our enthusiastic undergraduate and post-graduate students!
Do you have any advice to young people who’d like to get into science?
I have the same advice that I would give to anyone who has a strong interest in any discipline, and that is to simply be led by that interest, and pursue it. In any field hard work is required and science is certainly no different, but if you relish exploring new scientific frontiers, as I do, then it seems less like work and more like a hobby.
As for practical advice, then read as much about the topics that interest you as possible, always ask questions and certainly don’t be discouraged by what you don’t know – science is a process of constant learning and discovery!
Many thanks for your time Wayne!