Imperial College London

Dr David McPhail

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Materials

Visiting Professor



+44 (0)20 7594 6721d.mcphail CV




102Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





My research is concerned with the characterization of materials using surface analysis techniques, especially Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS), Low Energy Ion Scattering (LEIS) and Focused Ion Beam (FIB) SIMS.  My aim is to apply SIMS, FIB SIMS and LEIS to as many different materials types as possible exploiting the very high (sub-nm) resolution and sensitivity (parts per billion) of the techniques.

I am looking for collaborators who are interested in exploiting the resolution and  sensitivity of these techniques to explore the chemistry at and near the surface of materials.  Processes that can be studied include dopant distributions, oxidation, diffusion, segregation, and mass transport, for examples across grain boundaries and cell walls. SIMS, LEIS and FIB SIMS can be combined with stable isotope exchange protocols (for example 18O and 2D) for tagging experiments.

Recent investigations include nanomaterials, electrical ceramics, biomaterials including soft tissues such as C-elegans and eye tissue, glasses, polymers and plastics, aerospace alloys, museum materials and micrometeorites. 

In addition to my interest in surface analysis I am also interested in educational research and have received four small grants to facilitate work on transferable skills, international students and student exchanges. I have several publications in the educational literature and have given four invited talks in this area, most recently at ICMAT 2009 and Going Global 2010.2011-2013.

Some recent grants



Centre for Doctoral Training in the Advanced Characterisation of Materials (CDT-ACM)

£ 4,073,000


Imaging biochemical gradients in bacterial biofilms on catheters.

Institutional Strategic Support Fund: Networks of Excellence Scheme CI, £ 83,939


The conservation of polymeric materials in museum collections using advanced surface science and surface analysis techniques.

AHRC collaborative doctoral training grant, £ 61,128


Ion beam techniques for the sub-nanometric characterisation of advanced energy conversion hetero-structured materials.

Marie Curie Fellowship for Helena Tellez Lozano – EU FP7, €201,050  


Surface and interface analysis in materials engineering using TOF-SIMS, FIB-SIMS and LEIS.

Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship, £ 59,037


Determination of surface and interface processes in materials science.

EPSRC Responsive mode, £ 2,300,000


Characterisation of the next generation of nanomaterials using high sensitivity high resolution ion beam techniques, PMI2.

British Council, £ 28,615.


Preparation and characterization of calcium phosphate cement reinforced with biofunctionalized carbon nanotubes for medical applications, PMI2.

British Council, £ 39,053.


I have a BSc in Physics from Bristol University, a PGCE from the London Institute of Education and a PhD in Materials from Imperial College.  After my PhD I undertook research posts at Imperial College and the City of London Polytechnic before taking up a lectureship in the Physics department at Warwick University. I joined the Materials department at Imperial College from Warwick University in 1989.  In 2010 I was elected to the IOP Council and I am a former chairman of the IOP Materials and Characterisation group.  I am on the IOP Group and Coordination Committee (GCC)  and chaired an IOP Members Engagement review panel.  In July 2011 I was nominated by the IOP Council as a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. I am on the International Science Committee for the SIMS conference series. In June 2011 I was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering / Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship effective from March 2012. I become Deputy Director of the new Graduate School of Imperial College in October 2011.  I have over 160 publications in press.