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Associate Professor in the Department of ChemistryMC107A+44 (0) 191 33 42139


EDI - Co-Chair

Departmental Environment Champion
Rheology and composites

The behaviour of materials under flow is essential to understand for many processing, manufacturing and product uses. We use controlled rheology experiments on well defined samples to study their behaviour in simplified flow conditions and combine with theory, modelling and other experimental techniques to understand the complex behaviours of modern materials.

Research Interests

Research in Dr Thompson’s group is focused on the physical chemistry of polymers and particularly their fascinating behaviour at exposed surfaces and buried interfaces. Within this area, there are two main themes: (i) the relationship between chemical functionalisation of polymer and their self-organisation,[1, 2] and (ii) the exploitation of unusual process environments to control this behaviour.[3, 4] As well as addressing fundamental polymer science problems, the group collaborates with actively with industry and other research groups to address diverse topics such as surface modification, rheology (flow) problems, polymer electronics[5] and nanocomposites.[6]

Influence of solvents on polymer adsorption and diffusion

-why bake, when you could boil, steam or deep fry!?

Polymer processing frequently makes use of organic solvents and we have used ion beam and optical techniques to explore for the first time the relationship between the ingress of a penetrating solvent vapour or nonsolvent and the interdiffusion of polymer chains that can accompany this process. Not only does this allow us to understand how to make efficient use of organic solvents, but is leads to new opportunities in polymer self-organisation. We have also shown for the first time that polarity, pH and ionic strength of a contacting non-solvent can all be harnessed to deliver different kinds of surface modification.

  1. Kimani, S.M., et al., Synthesis and surface activity of high and low surface energy multi-end functional polybutadiene additives. Soft Matter, 2012. 8(12): p. 3487-3496. 
  2. Hardman, S.J., et al., Surface Modification of Polyethylene with Multi-End-Functional Polyethylene Additives. Langmuir, 2012. 28(11): p. 5125-5137. 
  3. Hutchings, L.R., et al., NonSolvent Annealing in Thin Polymer Films. Langmuir, 2010. 26(19): p. 15486-15493. 
  4. Thompson, R.L., et al., pH-Controlled Polymer Surface Segregation. Langmuir, 2009. 25(5): p. 3184-3188. 
  5. Rodriguez, A.B., et al., Structure of films of poly(3,4-ethylene dioxythiophene)-poly(styrene sulfonate) crosslinked with glycerol. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011. 21(48): p. 19324-19330. 
  6. Thompson, R.L., S.C. Gurumurthy, and M. Pattabi, Depth distribution of silver particulate films deposited in softened polystyrene substrates studied through Rutherford backscattering spectrometry. Journal of Applied Physics, 2011. 110(4). 043533

Research interests

  • Ion and neutron scattering techniques
  • Soft Matter
  • Polymer Blends
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Nanocomposites

Research groups

  • Soft Matter and Interfaces

Awarded Grants

  • 2020: A novel flexible format for departmental seminars improving inclusion at Durham University(£3800.00 from Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund)
  • 2020: Synthesis of well-defined biodegradable polymers and study of their material properties(£49393.16 from Procter & Gamble UK)
  • 2020: WT 529888: Control of Protective Coating Performance Aspects Through Manipulation of Polymer Fragility(£0.00 from AKZO Noble)
  • 2019: KTP- AGMA Ltd(£141980.00 from )
  • 2017: Microstar - 2yr expt RA(£277734.90 from CPI Innovation Services Ltd)
  • 2017: Small Molecule migration in, on and through complex formulations: Towards predictive control and sustainable future(£426516.80 from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
  • 2014: Capability Study of LACE Slot Die and Magenta R2R Equipment(£15071.00 from Centre for Process Innovation Limited)
  • 2014: Structure property relationships of melted polymers from model systems to industrial complexity rheological characterization and modelling(£96374.00 from Michelin)
  • 2013: CASE Studentship:Migration of Actives Through Films(£17280.32 from Procter & Gamble Technical Centres Ltd)
  • 2013: Engineering innovation in graphene nanocomposites for consumer product and packaging applications(£1262925.58 from Epsrc)
  • 2013: IAA KTS - Squeezing Down The Cost of Polymer Processing(£2741.78 from Epsrc)
  • 2012: Ageing Studies in Drying Soils(£3000.00 from N8 Research Partnership)
  • 2012: Levitating Life - a contactless technology for bioreactors(£2800.00 from N8 Research Partnership)
  • 2012: Smart rheological systems based on supramolecular chemistry(£110932.00 from Michelin)
  • 2011: Knowledge Exchange of industrially relevant synthesis techniques with DuPont Teijin Films(£11879.05 from Epsrc)
  • 2010: KTP - DuPont Teijin Films UK Limited(£228446.00 from DuPont Teijin Films UK Limited)
  • 2010: PIA: Activities to highlight polymer and soft matter capability at Durham University(£29765.28 from Epsrc)
  • 2009: Adsorption and Adhesion on semi-crystalline(£321861.58 from Epsrc)
  • 2005: EXTENDED RANGE ION BEAM ANALYSIS SYSTEM(£22453.00 from Epsrc)

Esteem Indicators

  • 0000: British Society of Rheology: Council Member and Hon. Bulletin Editor
  • 0000: ISIS Facility Access Panel (Large Scale Structures) 2008-2011:
  • 0000: ISIS Facility Access Panel (Spectroscopy) 2014-2018:

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Chemistry: Surface analysis of materials, particularly using particle scattering methods.
  • Structure, Property and Function: Surface analysis of materials, particularly using particle scattering methods.


Conference Paper

  • L.R. Hutchings, A.P. Narrainen, N. Clarke, R.L. Thompson & I.A. Ansari (2006), Well defined multi end-functionalized polymers as additives to modify surfaces and interfaces, 231: 231st National Meeting of the American-Chemical-Society. Atlanta, GA, Atlanta GA.
  • A.P. Narrainen, L.R. Hutchings, W.J. Feast, R.L. Thompson, I.A. Ansari & N. Clarke (2006), Fluorocarbon end-functionalized polymers from poly(arylether) dendritic initiators, 231: 8th Conference on Macromolecules - Polymers for Africa. La Pirogue, MAURITANIA, La Pirogue, 103-109.

Journal Article

Supervision students