Professor Graham J. Leggett

Department of Chemistry

Professor of Nanoscale Analytical Science

Graham Leggett
+44 114 222 9556

Full contact details

Professor Graham J. Leggett
Department of Chemistry
Dainton Building
13 Brook Hill
S3 7HF

Prof. Leggett obtained a BSc in Chemistry from UMIST in 1987. His PhD from the same institution, obtained in 1990, was followed by consecutive appointments as Research Associate at Universities of Washington and Nottingham. In 1994 he was appointed as lecturer at the University of Nottingham 1994-98. He became a Lecturer at UMIST in 1998, where he was subsequently promoted to senior lecturer and reader.

In 2002 he was appointed as Professor of nanoscale analytical chemistry at the University of Sheffield. He was appointed as the Head of Department in 2018.

Research interests

Graham's research is focused on the chemistry of nanoscale interfaces. Currently, three themes are of special interest:

  • nanophotonics, including nanofabrication and plasmonics
  • biologically-inspired design, in particular the construction of photonic materials inspired by photosynthetic systems
  • molecular interactions at nanometre scale interfaces, including fundamental investigations of the thermodynamics and mechanics of sliding contacts between molecules (nanotribology)

In strong light-matter coupling, an ensemble of excitons (molecular excited states) is hybridised with a confined optical mode (localised surface plasmon resonance) to create new states called plexcitons that combine the properties of light and matter. Our goal is to combine strong light-matter coupling with biologically-inspired design principles, to create new materials for applications in technologies such as solar energy capture and photocatalysis.

In our 'molecular photonic breadboards', minimal units - synthetic antenna complexes - are designed from scratch to organise molecular components precisely in space and assembled to form nanostructured films, with the aim of controlling excitation transfer from the nm to the cm scale. This work builds on our core expertise in making and characterising molecular thin films, including self-assembled monolayers (ordered molecular films formed by spontaneous adsorption onto a solid surface) and polymer brushes (polymers grown from surface-bound initiator molecules). We have developed a suite of techniques for manipulating surface chemistry at the nanometre scale, including nanophotonic methods based upon near-field photolithography and interferometric methods. We use powerful analytical methods, including atomic force microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and secondary ion mass spectrometry, to characterise the chemistry of molecular films.


Using scanning probe microscopy, we measure noncovalent interactions between organic molecules at nanoscale interfaces, and we measure nanoscale sliding forces (friction) to explore the thermodynamics of molecular interfaces. Using these quantitative measurements we explore the molecular origins of friction and adhesion in a diversity of applications, including hair-care, laundry detergents and lubrication systems. Our goal is to use nanoscience to discover how to design sustainable alternatives to the active components in these important every-day products.


Journal articles


  • Leggett GJ (2005) 8 Photolithography beyond the diffraction limit, Nanolithography and Patterning Techniques in Microelectronics (pp. 238-266). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett GJ () Nanolithography John Wiley & Sons, Ltd RIS download Bibtex download
  • Cope BC, Packham DE, Leggett G, Beech JC, Lowe GB, Briggs D, Brewis DM, Crocombe AD, Dixon DG, Van Ooij WJ , Parbhoo B et al () S, Handbook of Adhesion (pp. 439-525). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd RIS download Bibtex download
  • Watts JF, Critchlow GW, Packham DE, Kneafsey B, Sherriff M, Shanahan MER, Cope BC, Pascoe MW, Sagar AJG, Allen KW , Dixon DG et al () A, Handbook of Adhesion (pp. 1-58). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Kumar S, Mullin N, Cartron ML, Leggett GJ, Foster SJ, Hunter CN & Hobbs JK (2017) High-resolution Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) imaging of native biological membrane systems. EUROPEAN BIOPHYSICS JOURNAL WITH BIOPHYSICS LETTERS, Vol. 46 (pp S368-S368) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett GJ, Alswieleh A, Cheng N, Canton I, Ustbas B, Xue X, Ladmiral V, Xia S, Ducker RE, El Zubir O , Cartron ML et al (2014) Synthesis and nanometer-scale patterning of stimulus-responsive, biofouling-resistant zwitterionic poly(amino acid methacrylate) brushes. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 248 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Moxey M, El Zubir O, Johnson A, Dinachali SS, Saifullah MSM, Chong KSL & Leggett GJ (2014) Self-cleaning, reusable templates for protein nanopatterning fabricated by interferometric lithography and nanoimprinting. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 248 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ducker RE, El Zubir O, Wang L, Cartron ML, Mullin N, Cadby A, Hobbs J, Hunter CN & Leggett GJ (2014) Nanoscale positioning of multiple proteins by scanning near-field photolithography. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 248 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Tsargorodska A, El Zubir O, Johnson A & Leggett GJ (2014) Fabrication of metal nanostructures over macroscopic areas by interferometric lithography of self-assembled monolayers. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 247 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett G (2012) Continuous wave cavity ring-down spectroscopy for environmental applications. Optical Instrumentation for Energy and Environmental Applications, E2 2012 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Nikogeorgos N, Hunter CA & Leggett GJ (2012) Mechanics and thermodynamics of nanometre-scale molecular contacts. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 244 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ducker RE, Montague MT, Sun S & Leggett GJ (2007) Fabrication of sub-diffraction-limit molecular structures by scanning near-field photolithography - art. no. 664513. Nanoengineering: Fabrication, Properties, Optics, and Devices IV, Vol. 6645 (pp 64513-64513) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett GJ, Chong KSL & Sun SQ (2004) Scanning near-field photolithography: A new tool for fabricating molecular nanostructures.. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 227 (pp U875-U875) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Chong KSL, Sun S & Leggett GJ (2004) Scanning near-field photolithography: A new route to biological nanostructures. Transactions - 7th World Biomaterials Congress (pp 1368) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hobbs JK, Winkel AK, McMaster TJ, Humphris ADL, Baker AA, Blakely S, Aissaoui M & Miles MJ (2001) Some recent developments in SPM of crystalline polymers. Macromolecular Symposia, Vol. 167(1) (pp 1-14) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett GJ, Beake BD & Brewer NJ (2000) Scanning force microscopy of polyester: surface structure and adhesive properties. American Chemical Society, Polymer Preprints, Division of Polymer Chemistry, Vol. 41(2) (pp 1435-1436) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Leggett GJ & Beake BD (1998) Development of surface morphology, local friction and adhesion in plasma-treated poly(ethylene terephthalate) films. American Chemical Society, Polymer Preprints, Division of Polymer Chemistry, Vol. 39(2) (pp 1228-1229) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Scotchford CA, Sim B, Hutt D, Leggett G & Downes S (1996) Surface energy effects on osteoblast attachment: A model system. Transactions of the Annual Meeting of the Society for Biomaterials in conjunction with the International Biomaterials Symposium, Vol. 1 (pp 597) RIS download Bibtex download
Teaching interests

Analytical Chemistry; Surface Chemistry.

Teaching activities

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules

  • Chemistry and the World Around Us (Level 1): Fuel
    The course examines how chemical principles may be used to make qualitative assessments of the efficiency of energy production, and explores the complexity of many issues facing society as it grapples with the problems of climate change and energy supply scarcity.
  • Solid Surfaces and Catalysis (Level 3)
    This course considers the nature of gas-solid interactions and their relationship to catalytic activity.
  • Nanochemistry (Level 4)
    This provides an overview of the role of chemistry in nanotechnology, and introduce students to major techniques for the fabrication and characterisation of nanostructured materials and devices.
  • Polymer Characterisation and Analysis (Postgraduate Level)
    This course explores the major instrumental methods for identifying polymers and determining characteristics including: polymer molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, stereochemistry, sequence distribution in copolymers, transition temperatures, and surface features.

Support Teaching:

  • Level 3 Literature Review

Laboratory Teaching:

  • Level 1 Physical Laboratories
  • Level 2 Physical Laboratories
  • Level 3 Research Project
  • Level 4 Research Project