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