Gregori Aminoff Prize 2015

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Gregori Aminoff Prize for 2015 to Ian Robinson, London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, and Research Complex at Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire, UK.

“For his development of diffraction methods for studying surfaces and nanomaterials”.

New tools for the study of the structure of matter

Professor Ian Robinson has made a number of pioneering contributions in the field of X-ray diffraction, which is a method used to determine the three-dimensional structure of a crystal. He is in the forefront when it comes to utilising the opportunities provided by increasingly advanced synchrotron light sources and free-electron lasers in the study of the electronic and structural properties of solids.

During the 1980s, Robinson further developed x-ray diffraction, allowing the study of surfaces. Until that time the standard technique for studying surface structures had been LEED (Low Energy Electron Diffraction), which uses electrons rather than X-rays to create a diffraction pattern. The use of electrons results in great surface sensitivity, whereas X-ray radiation penetrates much further into a material. When the technique of X-ray diffraction could be made sufficiently surface sensitive, it had many advantages. X-ray diffraction can provide more precise results. The ability of X-rays to penetrate further into a material also makes it possible to look inside a reaction cell and study the chemical processes occurring on a catalyst surface in such a cell. Robinson’s development work has been related to both the experimental techniques and the methods used in interpreting the results, and his method is used at a number of the world’s foremost laboratories.

Ian Robinson is also active in the development of new synchrotron radiation-based techniques, which use the high degree of coherence of these light sources, i.e. the fact that the light waves are in phase with each other. Over the last decades, diffraction based methods have been developed that allow detailed three-dimensional mapping of materials – and Robinson is one of the pioneers in this area. He has demonstrated how it is possible to obtain a three-dimensional representation of deformations and defects in nanomaterials. Using the extremely short X-ray pulses from the LCLS (Linac Coherent Light Source) free-electron laser at Stanford, Robinson and his colleagues have also shown how one can excite motion (phonons) of the atoms in individual nanoparticles and follow how these movements propagate in the particles.

The prize will be presented at the Annual meeting of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 31 March 2015.

Prize amount: SEK 100,000

The Laureate

Ian Robinson, UK citizen. Robinson has a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge, UK and received his PhD from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA in 1981. Until 1992, Robinson worked at AT&T Bell Labs (Murray Hill, NJ, USA), after which he was appointed to a professorship at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. In 2006 he was appointed professor at the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London. Robinson is also a Diamond Fellow at the Research Complex at Harwell, Oxford, UK.

2014, the International Year of Crystallography

Crystallography is the science of the atomic structure of solids. X-ray crystallography can be used to determine the atomic structure of a crystal; an X-ray beam is aimed at a crystal, causing a diffraction pattern that can be used to produce a 3D model of the crystal. This technique is commonly used in geology, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and materials science, to determine mineral properties, protein and DNA structures and in the work to develop new functional materials. This year has been named the International Year of Crystallography, partly to celebrate the centenary of the discovery of X-ray diffraction and partly to mark the 400th anniversary of Kepler’s discovery and description of the symmetry of ice crystals.

Free articles of Aminoff Laureates at Physica Scripta

The International Year of Crystallography will be marked in the scientific journal Physica Scripta by a series of publications celebrating the diversity of crystallography and the achievements that have been made through the application of crystallographic techniques. A considerable number of Aminoff Prize Laureates have kindly agreed to contribute a personal account of their research achievements. The intention is to provide a complete background for teachers and lecturers to enable them and their students to see how the subject developed and how the techniques are applied in other fields within the context of the Aminoff Prize.

Download the articles from Physica Scripta.   

About the Gregori Aminoff Prize

The Gregori Aminoff Prize rewards documented individual contributions to the field of crystallography, including areas concerned with the dynamics of the formation and dissolution of crystal structures. Some preference should be shown for work evincing elegance in the approach to the problem. The prize was first awarded in 1979 and is primarily awarded to an individual Swedish or foreign researcher, otherwise to a research group of no more than three people.

This year marks the 275th anniversary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Academy was founded in 1739 and is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.


Press contact
Jessica Balksjö Nannini
Press Officer, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,
+46 8 673 95 44,
+46 70 673 96 50,

Expert Member of the Prize Committee
Nils Mårtensson
, professor in the physics of metals and metal surfaces, Uppsala University,
+46 18 471 36 10,
+46 70 582 63 89,

Chair of the Prize Committee
Pär Nordlund
, professor, Karolinska Institutet,
+46 8 702 94 96,
+46 70 433 66 88,

The Laureate
Ian Robinson
, professor, London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London.