Professor Nicola Morley

MPhys, PhD, MInstP

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Professor in Material Physics

Professor Nicola Morley
+44 114 222 5935

Full contact details

Professor Nicola Morley
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Sir Robert Hadfield Building
Mappin Street
S1 3JD

Nicola Morley was appointed as Lecturer to the department in May 2005 and promoted to Senior Lecturer in January 2014 and Professor in January 2019.

Her research is based in the Sheffield Centre of Advanced Magnetic Materials and Devices (SCAMMD). Previously, she was a postdoctoral research assistant in the SCAMMD group at the University of Sheffield (2003-2005).

She was awarded her PhD from the University of Durham in 2003, and graduated from the University of Oxford in 1999 with a MPhys in Physics.

Research interests

Nicola Morley's research centres on functional magnetic materials, including the understanding and development of magnetic films to be used in magnetic devices and sensors. The main research areas are:

Fe-based Magnetostrictive Materials and Devices
Research is focused on the fabrication and characterisation of Fe-based magnetostrictive film, including Fe-Co and Fe-Ga for MEMS device applications. Fabrication techniques include a state of the art co-sputter-evaporation deposition system, RF/DC sputter system and an evaporator. A wide range of characterisation techniques are used, which include XRD, AFM/MFM, MOKE magnetometry and resistance measurements, as well as central facilities (ESRF, France, diamond, UK). The main aim of the work is to understand the relationship between the magnetostriction, microstructure and magnetisation. The work has also involved the development of magnetostrictive MEMS devices, which includes magnetostrictive actuators for structural health monitoring, magnetostrictive energy harvesters and mass MEMS sensors.

Organic Spintronics
This research investigates the spin transport within organic semiconductors, including the development of room temperature organic spin-valves. The spin transport has been investigated using a range of techniques including magnetoresistance, XPS, MOKE magnetometry, AFM and muon spectroscopy. The main aims are to understand how the interfaces influence the spin transport in organic spin-valves and develop novel organic spin devices, such as the spin switch. Research has studied both lateral and vertical devices at room temperature.

This research involves studying multilayer multiferroics to investigate how the optical, electrical and magnetic properties are linked within the hetrostructures. Work has studied how the interfaces influence the overall properties of the structures. Characterisation techniques include XRD, SEM, TEM, AFM/MFM, MOKE magnetometry and electrical measurements.

Functional Magnetic Materials
This research involves investigating functional magnetic materials (magnetocaloric, soft and hard magnets and magnetostrictive) using novel techniques such as spark plasma sintering (SPS), additive layer manufacture (ALM) and thin films, to determine how the structural properties of the materials influence the functional properties. The work has included studying element substitution, high entropy alloy and materials design using computational methods.


Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

Professional activities
  • Member of the Muon Facility Access Panel.
  • Programme Chair of SpinOS 2012
  • Guest Editor for Synthetic Metals special edition (2012)
Case Study - High Entropy Alloys

High Entropy Alloys: The next big thing in soft magnetic films?

"I had been working for twelve years in academia and hit a point where I had a done a lot of teaching, research and administration. I had applied for and lost a big grant to pursue a new research area, making me realise that I needed to step back from my other duties and get back into the lab to see where this research could go, so I applied for the Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship.

"'High Entropy Alloys' are big buzzwords with the materials science field, having only been discovered a decade ago. I noticed this area was underdeveloped within my own research area of magnetic materials, with only ~10 published papers on their magnetics properties, so I saw an opportunity to tune the properties within my fellowship and found that they had stranger behaviour than I had anticipated. The fellowship allowed me to explore this new area and discover these novel properties.

"My research was productive in this year and was promoted to Professor (despite only applying to Reader level) as a direct result of my fellowship. Without this fellowship, it is likely that I would only have been promoted to a Reader position with a heavier teaching load and not as much time for lab-based research. There was also benefit for the magnetics research group as in the year and a half since my fellowship, we have brought in £2.5m of research funding, compared to only £500k in the prior five years.

"I was known in the community prior to this fellowship, but since I have been invited to more conferences and was invited to sit on the Women in Magnetism International Group. The Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship came at the right time, when my kids were old enough that I could spend more time on research and has grown my confidence, setting off more career opportunities since."

Case study from The Royal Society.