Neil Alford received his BSc from St Andrews University and spent three years working in SE Asia and S America in the Oil Exploration Industry. He returned to the UK to carry out his PhD at Queen Mary College in the area of fracture mechanics of cement mortars. He carried out post doctoral work at Oxford University in collaboration with ICI developing high strength cement. He joined ICI Corporate Laboratory in 1981 and was involved with projects concerning macro defect free cement, viscous processing of ceramics and the properties of perovskite ceramics, specifically High Temperature Superconductors (HTS). The application of HTS to microwave devices was a major area and part of this activity has been now transferred to industry for cellular communications.
He joined London South Bank University in 1994 and developed HTS Magnetic resonance receive coils, microwave dielectrics, novel signal transformers and ferroelectric thin films. Recent work on microwave dielectric materials has resulted in the development of ultra low loss alumina resonators and an understanding of the defect chemistry of TiO2 which has allowed the production of very high Q and high dielectric constant materials. This technology has been patented and transferred to industry.
In 2011 he and colleagues Mark Oxborrow and Jon Breeze discovered that a Bragg resonator with sapphire plates of aperiodic thickness could achieve an extraordinarily high Q factor for the resonator. This led them to the discovery that it was possible to construct a MASER operating at room temperature and in the earth's magnetic field. This research was published in Nature doi:10.1038/nature11339. In 2018 a continuous wave maser was demonstrated with diamond containing nitrogen vacancies. This was also published in Nature doi:10.1038/nature25970. This is closely linked to the nanotechnology effort at Imperial College and to the Centre for Quantum Engineering Science and Technologies. http://www.imperial.ac.uk/quantum-engineering-science-technology. The Diamond maser is expected to find uses in Quantum Sensors and Navigators and in Quantum Communications and early applications are envisaged in low noise amplifiers.
Technology transfer is a key component of the work undertaken by his group and collaborations with industry are encouraged and actively pursued. In January 2007 he and his research group moved to Imperial College. In 2008 he was awarded the Griffith Prize and Meda and in 2018, the Platinum Prize(IOM3) He has served as Head of the Department of Materials and Vice-Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Engineering; he is currently the Associate Provost for Academic Planning. In 2013 he was awarded the MBE for services to Engineering.
- A comprehensive list of Microwave Dielectric Materials (Loss tangent, temperature coefficient of frequency, relatve permittivity (dielectric constant)
et al., 2018, Continuous-wave room-temperature diamond maser, Nature, Vol:555, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:493-496
et al., 2017, Nanosecond time-resolved characterization of a pentacene-based room-temperature MASER, Scientific Reports, Vol:7, ISSN:2045-2322
et al., 2015, Enhanced magnetic Purcell effect in room-temperature masers, Nature Communications, Vol:6, ISSN:2041-1723, Pages:1-6
et al., 2014, Experimental observation of negative capacitance in ferroelectrics at room temperature, Nano Letters, Vol:14, ISSN:1530-6984, Pages:3864-3868
Oxborrow M, Breeze JD, Alford NM, 2012, Room-temperature solid-state maser, Nature, Vol:488, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:353-+
et al., 2009, Do Grain Boundaries Affect Microwave Dielectric Loss in Oxides?, Journal of the American Ceramic Society, Vol:92, ISSN:0002-7820, Pages:671-674