James Cairns

Prof James Cairns

Emeritus Professor of Materials Science


  • Ph.D. Chemistry, Glasgow University, 1967
  • D.Sc. Chemistry, Glasgow University, 1979
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Professional Experience

  • 1967-72 Joined Harwell Laboratory, Oxfordshire, England as Senior Scientific Officer. Worked on developing techniques for detecting trace impurities in semiconductors by using accelerated protons to generate characteristic X-rays. Extended this to the use of accelerated heavy ions.
    Invited by IBM Research Laboratories, Yorktown Heights, NewYork, to join their Summer Faculty Programme as a visiting scientist. This arrangement continued for approximately the following 10 years.
    Designed a novel type of gas flow proportional counter for detecting low energy X-rays. This was patented and marketed commercially.
  • 1972-78 Co-initiated catalysis studies in Harwell with Dr R.S.Nelson. Designed a new range of catalysts, (based on novel Fecralloy® steel substrates) for vehicle exhaust emission control. These are described in a series of patents. The resulting products were licensed to Johnson Matthey Plc.
    Co-founded the Harwell Catalyst Unit with Dr R.S.Nelson
    Worked on the use of sol-gel technology for producing new catalysts. Promoted to Principal Scientific Officer.
  • 1978-81 Set up research team to study the basic processes involved in using RF gas plasma discharges to etch silicon integrated circuits. Promoted to Banded Grade Scientific Officer
  • 1981-88 Became Head of Applied Chemistry Group at the Harwell Laboratory. Responsible for directing research of approx. 50 scientific and technical staff on a range of topics, including catalysis, ceramics, and semiconductor materials. Collaborated with a wide range of industrial companies, including Johnson Matthey, Rolls Royce, and IBM.
    Assumed responsibility for the fundamental research on Chemical Effects at Surfaces for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
    Promoted to Senior Staff- the highest scientific level in the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
  • 1989-2001 Professor of Microelectronics and Materials Science at the University of Dundee.
  • 2001 Appointed Emeritus Professor at University of Dundee
  • 2010 Awarded Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship to investigate methods of producing nano-size metal dispersions in aqueous media.
    Author, or co-author of over 150 scientific papers, including numerous presentations at International Conferences. Author or co-author of over 30 patents.

Selected Publications

  1. Studies of Atomic Collision Events
    • 'Ejection of Surface Iodine Atoms from Single Crystals of Potassium Iodide Subjected to (n,λ) Reactions', J. A. , and S. J. Thomson, Inorg. Nucl. Chem. Letters 3, 107 (1967).
    • 'The Location of Impurity Atoms in Crystals using Characteristic X-Ray Generation by Channeled Protons', J. A. , and R. S. Nelson, Phys. Lett. 27A, 14 (1968).
    • 'Heavy Ion-Induced Characteristic X-rays as a tool in solid state physics', J.A. Cairns, Nuci. Instr. Methods 92, 507 (1971).
    • 'Selective X-ray generation by heavy ions (Part 1). The use of energetic heavy ions to generate characteristic X-rays from elements in a selective manner', J. A. Cairns and R. S. Nelson, Rad. Effects 7,196 (1971).
    • 'Selective X-ray generation by heavy ions (Part 2). Measurement of the concentration distribution of ion-implanted antimony in silicon by the use of selective heavy ion X-ray excitation', J. A. Cairns, D. F. Holloway and R. S. Nelson, Rad. Effects 7 167 (1971)
    • 'Heavy ion-induced characteristic X-ray generation as an analytical probe', J. A. Cairns, D. F. Holloway and R. S. Nelson, “Advances in X-ray analysis”, 14, 173 (1971).
    • 'Double scattering mechanism to account for the Si-K X-ray yields observed during argon ion bombardment of silicon, J. Macek, J. A. Cairns and J. S. Briggs, Phys. Rev. Lett. 28, 1298 (1972).
    • 'A new look at X-rays', J. A. Cairns, New Scientist, p274, May 1972.
    • 'Characteristic X-ray production by heavy ion bombardment as a technique for the examination of solid surfaces', J. A. Cairns, Surface Science, 34, (1973).
    • 'An assessment of ion-induced X-rays for analysis', J.A.Cairns, A. D. Marwick and I.V. Mitchell, Thin Solid Films, 19, 91 (1973).
    • 'Investigation of the production of non-characteristic X-rays during Ar-Si collisions at 270 keV', J.A. Cairns, A. D. Marwick, J Macek and J. S. Briggs, Phys. Rev. Lett. 32, 509 (1974).
    • 'Characteristic and non-characteristic X-rays produced during 1 MeV argon bombardment of silicon', A. L. Lurio, J. A. Cairns, J. F. Ziegler and J. Macek, Phys. Rev. A12, 498 (1975).
    • 'An examination of the origin of molecular orbital X-rays from atomic and molecular impact on a series of solid targets', J. A. Cairns and D. F. Holloway. Nucl. Instr. and Meth. 159, 99 (1979).
  2. Instrumentation for the Detection of Low Energy X-Rays
    • 'A New End-Window Variable Geometry X-ray Proportional Counter', J. A. Cairns, C. L. Desborough and D. F. Holloway, Nucl. Instr. Methods, 88, 239 (1970).
    • 'Selectivity of X-Ray Detection by a Variable Geometry Proportional Counter', J.A. Cairns, C. L. Desborough and D. F. Holloway, Nature 223, 1262 (1969).
    • 'Proportional Counter with Adjustable Anode', J. A. Cairns and C. L. Desborough, British Patent No. 1256396 (1971).
    • 'A New Proportional Counter Anode Unit', J. A. Cairns and D. F. Holloway, Nucl. Instr. Methods, 94, 579 (1971).
    • 'A New Compact Soft X-ray Gas Flow Proportional Counter', J. A. Cairns, D. F. Holloway and G. F. Snelling, Nucl. Instr. Methods 111, 4l9 (l973).
  3. Surface Science and Catalysis
    • 3(a)Elucidation of the mechanism behind Strong Metal-Support Interaction
      • 'Strong metal-support interactions for Pt and Rh on Al203 and Ti02: Application of nuclear backscattering spectrometry', J.A. Cairns, J.E.E. Baglin, G.J. Clark and J.F. Ziegler, Journal of Catalysis 83, 301 (1983).
    • 3(b)Study of Catalysts by Transmission Electron Microscopy
      • 'The sintering of an alumina-supported platinum catalyst, studied by transmission electron microscopy', P.J.F. Harris, E.D. Boyes and J.A. Cairns, Journal of Catalysis 82, 127 (1983).
      • 'An Electron Microscopy study of the thermal sintering of Pt/AIumina/Ceria Catalysts,' A. Cook, A.G.Fitzgerald, and J.A.Cairns, Electron Microscopy 2 Eurem 92, (1992).
    • 3(c)New Insights into Carbon Deposition on to Metal Surfaces
      • 'The use of RF plasma discharges to study the mechanisms of carbon deposition on to metallic surfaces', J. A. Cairns, J. P. Coad, E. W. T. Richards and I. A. Stenhouse, Nature, 288, 686 (1980)
      • 'The inhibition of carbon deposition on steel surfaces by selective oxidation', G. Horsley and J.A. Cairns, Applications of Surface Science 18, 273 (1984).
    • 3(d)The Invention of Fecralloy® Steel as a Vehicle Exhaust Catalyst Substrate
      • 'Improvements in or relating to catalysts and treatment of IC engine exhaust gases', J. A. Cairns and S. F. Pugh. British Patent No. 1492041 (1977). U.S. Patent No. 3966645 (1976)
      • 'The evolution of Fecralloy® steel based catalyst' J. A. Cairns, R. S. Nelson and G. J. K. Acres, International Journal of Materials in Engineering Applications, 1, 162 (1979)
      • 'Noble metal catalysts on metallic substrates: a new generation of cellular monoliths for emission control', A. S. Pratt and J. A. Cairns, Platinum Metals Review, 21, 74 (1977).
      • 'Improvements in or relating to the manufacture of catalysts', J. A. Cairns, R. S. Nelson and S. F. Pugh. British Patent No. 1469527 (1977). U.S. Patent No. 3969082 (1976).
      • 'Improvements in or relating to catalysts and catalytic burners', J. A. Cairns. British Patent No. 1485370 (1977).
    • 4.The Production of High Resolution Metal Tracks
      • 'The Production of Fine Metal Tracks from a New Range of Organometallic Compounds' G.J.Berry, J.A.Cairns, and J.Thomson, Sensors and Actuators 51,47 (1995).
      • 'Nm X-ray lithography, using a novel Mask Fabrication Technique' G.J.Berry, J.A.Caims, M.R.Davidson, D.R.G.Rodley, J.Thomson, l.C.E.Turcu, and W.Shaikh Review of Scientific instruments, 69, 3350 (1998).
    • 5. The Synthesis of Nano-Metal Dispersions
      • J.A.Caims, G.J.Berry, and R.A.G. Gibson, 'Nano-Particle Dispersions', International Publication Number WO 2009/066079 A2