Imperial College London

Dr Andrew Cairns

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Materials

Lecturer in Materials Chemistry



+44 (0)20 7594 9528a.cairns Website




107Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





To learn more about my current research you can visit my webpage and blog.

I joined Imperial as Research Fellow in September 2017 and have been a Lecturer in Materials since 2021. Before Imperial, I was a postdoctoral scientist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France on the high-pressure beamline ID27. I was awarded my DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2015 in Inorganic Chemistry. 


My research focuses on understanding and exploiting unusual properties of flexible framework materials. In particular, I investigate materials that respond in the opposite way than we might expect, for example shrinking on heating or expanding under uniform pressure. Central to this work is the ability to reveal the atomic structure — how key building blocks are arranged in 3D space — using crystallography. Knowing the atomic structure allows us to design better materials, and push materials with new and unusual properties towards application.

My research has been featured in popular science blogs and magazines including WIRED,  Ars Technica, and The Discovery Channel. In 2016 I received the ESRF Young Scientist Award and PANalytical PCG Thesis Prize from the British Crystallography Association.


I am module lead and teach kinetics in the Fundamentals of Processing module for first-year students in Materials Science and Engineering. This module introduces key concepts to understand how materials are formed and can be manipulated, for example predicting whether a synthesis or extraction process is spontaneous at a particular temperature, or how the speed of a process can be altered. I also lecture Structure 1 (Polymers) in Year 1.

In addition, I supervise Year 2 Case Study and Year 3 Literature review projects. I lecture Advanced Diffraction for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Characterisation of Materials and am a tutor at the BCA/CCG Intensive Teaching School in X-Ray Structure Analysis.

Other Activities

As Year 3 Coordinator I aim to ensure the various components of the BEng/MEng courses run efficiently and meet the expectations of our students. I work with the year rep and wellbeing rep to address concerns on an ongoing basis and liaise with the Senior Tutor, DUGS, Staff-Student Committee and Teaching Committee on all matters concerning the year. 

The Department of Materials aims to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our staff and students. I am a member of two departmental Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committees (Materials and Bioengineering), and the Equality and Diversity Board of the London Centre for Nanotechnology. I am committed to making Imperial — and science more broadly — a welcoming and inclusive place where everyone can thrive. In 2020 I was awarded the Department of Materials Community Champion Award. I am a Mental Health First Aider and am happy to speak to any staff or students facing challenges.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Boström HLB, Cairns AB, Chen M, et al., 2024, The pressure response of Jahn-Teller-distorted Prussian blue analogues, Chemical Science, Vol:15, ISSN:2041-6520, Pages:3155-3164

Geers M, Jarvis DM, Liu C, et al., 2023, High-pressure behavior of the magnetic van der Waals molecular framework Ni(NCS) 2, Physical Review B, Vol:108, ISSN:2469-9950

Boström HLB, Collings IE, Daisenberger D, et al., 2021, Probing the influence of defects, hydration and composition on Prussian blue analogues with pressure, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol:143, ISSN:0002-7863, Pages:3544-3554

Boström HLB, Collings IE, Cairns AB, et al., 2019, High-pressure behaviour of Prussian blue analogues: interplay of hydration, Jahn-Teller distortions and vacancies, Dalton Transactions, Vol:48, ISSN:1477-9234, Pages:1647-1655

Overy AR, Cairns AB, Cliffe MJ, et al., 2016, Design of crystal-like aperiodic solids with selective disorder–phonon coupling, Nature Communications, Vol:7

Cairns AB, Goodwin AL, 2015, Negative linear compressibility, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Vol:17, ISSN:1463-9076, Pages:20449-20465

Hill JA, Cairns AB, Lim JJK, et al., 2015, Zero-strain reductive intercalation in a molecular framework, Crystengcomm, Vol:17, ISSN:1466-8033, Pages:2925-2928

Collings IE, Cairns AB, Thompson AL, et al., 2013, Homologous Critical Behavior in the Molecular Frameworks Zn(CN)<sub>2</sub> and Cd(imidazolate)<sub>2</sub>, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol:135, ISSN:0002-7863, Pages:7610-7620

Cairns AB, Catafesta J, Levelut C, et al., 2013, Giant negative linear compressibility in zinc dicyanoaurate, Nature Materials, Vol:12, ISSN:1476-1122, Pages:212-216

Cairns AB, Thompson AL, Tucker MG, et al., 2012, Rational Design of Materials with Extreme Negative Compressibility: Selective Soft-Mode Frustration in KMn[Ag(CN)<sub>2</sub>]<sub>3</sub>, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol:134, ISSN:0002-7863, Pages:4454-4456

More Publications