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I began my professional career at Southampton University, UK, obtaining a first class honours degree in Electrical Engineering (1963) followed by a Masters degree by research into high vacuum electrical breakdown. I was lured by a fascination with brightly glowing plasmas, and the crack of high tension (100kV+) discharges that occurred from time to time across the tall glass insulating structures of the equipment. I pursued this theme during a Commonwealth scholarship at The University of Queensland, Australia obtaining a PhD there in 1968.

Returning to the UK I learnt the latest applications of high vacuum science at Edwards High Vacuum (BOC)Ltd Research Laboratories under Dr Les Holland (now Professor Holland) specialising in the building of ion beam systems for surface modification, analysis and implantation. Pioneering work was being done in the laboratories at the time. One might mention as a brief selection: ion pump and ion source development, backstreaming studies, probe measurements in rf sputtering plasmas, the first use of perfluorpolyethers in diffusion and mechanical pumps and their effects under electron and ion bombardment  and in plasmas. Analytical instruments were being developed including high resolution mass spectrometers  and I remember in particular a device known as a proton scattering microscope which used channelling phenomena to image crystal structures.

When BOC closed the research facilities, I moved to GEC Hirst Research(1974) joining a group developing plasma e-beam guns. I became involved in a project on electrical breakdown in vacuum (once again!) that was relevant to production problems in the manufacture of high power transmitting valves (tubes), (even today not replaced by solid state - these valves are rated up to 1MW and are used for TV transmission and industrial heating). This was fundamental research for an important application; using an image intensifier I was able to identify electroluminescent cathode impurities (k-spots) believed to have semiconducting properties as sites for electron emission that subsequently caused breakdown of the vacuum gap.

Electroluminescent (k-spot) electron emitting sites on electrically stressed copper cathodes in vacuum viewed through image-intensifier. 

 Thin film work followed at CRL (Thorn-EMI, 1978).There were many projects involving mainly reactive PVD processes like ion-plating and magnetron sputtering but outstanding would be my development of diamond-like carbon layers (note the date!) as a highly successful production process to protect IR imaging mirrors.

In 1986 I became a technical manager in the selenium photocopier drum-coating business (GBL, Byfleet). This was no-nonsense production where the only criterion for success was the number of good quality drums out of the door. My team worked intensively on yield problems. Thin film laboratory workers might be interested to know that selenium alloys are coated in walk-in size vacuum chambers, the deposits being allowed to accumulate on the interior walls, fixtures and fittings. Every few months this is chipped out with pneumatic hammers, the selenium producing a hard glassy deposit which may be over 1 inch thick.

Following this experience I worked for a short time as a consultant at VSW Ltd on ion and electron gun products for surface analysis instruments, subsequently arriving at Queens University in 1993 as a project manager under the STRIDE European funding scheme.

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