Portrait of Professor Robert Cywinski Professor Robert Cywinski

r.cywinski@hud.ac.uk | 01484 472169


Bob was awarded a BSc in Physics from the University of Manchester in 1973, and gained a PhD from the University of Salford in 1976. He then continued his research at Imperial College, London, and Monash University, Melbourne, before returning to the UK in 1980 to join the team building the world’s most powerful pulsed neutron source, ISIS, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. Following the official opening of ISIS in 1985, Bob was appointed as Lecturer in Physics at the University of Reading and in 1994 moved to the University of St Andrews as Professor of Natural Philosophy. In 2000 he became Professor of Physics and Dean of Research in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Leeds, finally joining the University of Huddersfield as research Professor in 2008.

Bob’s principal field of research is the application of neutron scattering, muon spin relaxation, and x-ray synchrotron techniques to the study of magnetic and superconducting properties of alloys and compounds, although he also uses similar techniques in the study of materials of biological, chemical, engineering, palaeontological and archaeological importance. He also is actively involved in the development of new particle accelerator technology for cancer therapy and for the generation of safe nuclear energy. Bob shares a current EPSRC and EU research grant portfolio of over £12M.

Bob has played a significant role in international science programmes: he has been Chairman of the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA), and President of the International Society for Muon Spectroscopy (ISMS-Europe, Russia and Africa), a position to which he has recently been re-elected. He acts as a scientific advisor to a number of national and international science facilities and institutions, including the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France, and TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada. He has also been a key figure in establishing and promoting the scientific and technical cases for the ongoing £1bn European Spallation Source (ESS) project. He is a board member of the British Accelerator Science and Radiation Oncology Consortium (BASROC) and a founder member of the Thorium Energy Amplifier Association (THOREA). He has been a member of the selection committee for three international science prizes (ie the Yamazaki, Kurti and Haelg prizes).

Bob actively promotes the public understanding of science and has made a number of science movies, two of which have featured Lord Robert Winston. He is currently a member of the team of Huddersfield Ambassadors.

Research and Scholarship

Area of current research activity include:

(i) The European Spallation Source project, the goal of which is to build the world’s most powerful source of neutrons for the study of materials across all disciplines, including physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, engineering, medicine, earth sciences and archaeology. The multinational £1b ESS project is now reaching its final design stages and entering a preparatory phase, funded by a 5M€ EU grant, 0.6M€ of which will be held by the University of Huddersfield.

(ii) The development of entirely new particle accelerators, known as non scaling fixed field alternating gradient (or ns-FFAG) accelerators, which may prove substantially cheaper and more flexible than existing synchrotrons and cyclotrons. This work is being carried out as part of the £8.5M RCUK Basic Technology funded CONFORM project under the umbrella of the British Association of Accelerator Science and Radiation Oncology (BASROC). CONFORM is also exploring the potential of ns-FFAGs as a drivers for proton and carbon ion beam cancer therapy. An early milestone will be the construction and testing of the world’s first ns-FFAG, the electron accelerator EMMA at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory.

(iii) The design and evaluation of a thorium-based energy amplifier, or accelerator driven sub-critical reactor (ADSR) for energy generation. ADSR systems may provide a safer and cheaper alternative to conventional nuclear power. Unlike conventional nuclear reactors which have an enriched uranium, or plutonium, core to sustain a chain reaction, ADSRs are designed to have insufficient neutrons to become critical. The additional neutrons that are needed to maintain the fission process are provided by spallation, whereby approximately 10% of the electrical power from the ADSR is used to accelerate protons to high energies, the protons then collide with heavy metal targets within the reactor core to spall (or chip off) neutrons. If the accelerator is switched off the fission processes stop. Additional advantages of the ADSR system are that it uses thorium, which is four times more plentiful than uranium, as fuel; it doesn’t produce plutonium and therefore minimises the risk of proliferation; it can burn plutonium, rendering it safe by reducing the half life of the radiotoxic waste from thousands to hundreds of years. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Professor Roger Barlow at the University of Manchester under a £160K EPSRC grant.

(iv) A feasibility study for a next generation muon facility for muon beam research in condensed matter science. Implanted muons are a uniquely sensitive probe of magnetic field distributions and dynamics in magnets, superconductors and semiconductors. Current facilities at PSI in Switzerland, ISIS in Oxfordshire. TRIUMF in Canada, and J-PARC in Japan, share the proton drivers that are used to create the muons with other users. The characteristics of the muon source are at best sub-optimal and at worst severly compromised. Within the CONFORM project we are exploring whether a stand-alone fully optimised FFAG-driven muon source is feasible and cost effective

(v) The exploration of the fundamental physics of glass and the glass transition through the study of spin correlations and dynamics in the magnetic analogue of glasses – spin glasses. Neutron and muon beam studies of the evolution of slow dynamics of interacting magnetic spins as the glass transition is approached are revealing complex (stretched exponential) relaxation which may be understood within the framework of sub-extensive entropy theory and point to a universal law for glassy relaxation. This work is supported by a £250K EPSRC grant and involves the use of neutron spin echo studies at ILL, Grenoble and HMI, Berlin (in collaboration with Dr Katia Pappas), and muon spin relaxation studies at ISIS in Oxfordshire.

(vi) The development of neutron radiography and tomography techniques. Neutron beams, although weaker than X-ray beams, are deeply penetrating and can be used to collect images, 3d reconstructions and even movies of the internal structure of complex objects (eg car engines, fossils preserved in rocks, the flow of water through stone, etc). This work has been carried out by Dr Martin Dawson, whilst a research student at ILL in Grenoble, and will continue through collaboration with Martin at HMI in Berlin.

Research Degree Supervision

Neutron studies of crystallographic and magnetic structures

The use of neutron diffraction to determine the interplay between crystallographic structure and magnetic moment localisation and order in a range of intermetallic alloys, alloys and compounds based on 3d transition metals and 4f rare earths. the project will involve visits to the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble, ISIS at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and other international neutron facilities.

Neutron and muon beam studies of spin dynamics in magnetic materials

Spin fluctuations in magnetic materials cover a wide range of time scales from pico-seconds to microseconds. Inelastic and quasielastic neutron scattering, and muon beam relaxation methods provide an ideal time window to observe the evolution of these spin fluctuations as a function of temperature, of composition, or of configurational environment, providing crucial information on the fundamental mechanisms of spin relaxation, moment formation and electron iterancy in a wide range of magnetic systems. neutron and muon beam experiments will be carried out at international facilities

Muon studies of exotic superconductors

Muon spin relaxation provides an accurate determination of the field distribution arising from the vortex lattice within the mixed stated of a superconductor. From this distribution fundamental parameters of the superconducting state, such as penetration depth, effective superelectron mass and carrier density can be estimated. It has been suggested that some of these parameters indicate that some superconductors, such as the high-Tc cuprates, the heavy fermions, and organic superconductors should be classed as "unconventional" or "exotic", and that the electron pairing mechanism may be a hybrid of BCS and Bose condensate processes. This project will use MuSR to probe new families of superconductors and test this conjecture.

Thorium-based energy amplifiers

The energy amplifier (EA), also known as the accelerator driven sub critical reactor (ADSR) may provide a safe alternative to conventional nuclear power. Moreover as the ADSR can burn relatively plentiful thorium as fuel they have a longer sustainability than U-based conventional nuclear reactors. However no ADSR has yet been built. Several projects based on the EA or ADSR concept could be offered, covering aspects such as thoria chemistry, materials properties, and computer simulations of possible core designs.

Current opportunities

  • Please contact this member of staff to discuss possible opportunities.

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