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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Richard Thompson

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42139
Room number: MC107A

(email at

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 Groups

Department of Chemistry

  • Soft Matter and Interfaces

Research Interests

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

Teaching Areas

  • L3 teaching labs Phys Chem

    (30 hours/year.)
  • SOFI-CDT PG training in Microfluidics

    (20 hours/year.)
  • Core Chem 4 (7 hours/year.)
  • L1 teaching labs (24 hours/year.)
  • SOFI-CDT PG training in rheology (9 hours)

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Reynolds, C. D., Hoyle, D. M., McLeish, T. C. B. & Thompson, R. L. (2020). Chain-stretch relaxation from low-frequency Fourier transform rheology. Physical Review Research 2(3): 033457.
  • Tasche, Jos , Sabattie, Elise F. D. , Thompson, Richard L. , Campana, Mario & Wilson, Mark R. (2020). Oligomer/polymer blend phase diagram and surface concentration profiles for squalane/polybutadiene: experimental measurements and predictions from SAFT-g Mie and molecular dynamics simulations. Macromolecules 53(7): 2299-2309.
  • Fong, Rebecca, Squillace, Ophélie, Reynolds, Carl, Cooper, Joshaniel, Dalgliesh, Robert Malcolm, Tellam, James, Courchay, Florence & Thompson, Richard L. (2020). Segregation of Amine Oxide Surfactants in PVA Films. Langmuir 36(17): 4795-4807.
  • Robertson, Ben, Robinson, Ian M., Stocks, D. & Thompson, Richard L. (2020). Shear processing maps: a new design guide for melt processors. Plastics, Rubber and Composites Macromolecular Engineering 1-23.
  • Boothroyd, S.C., Hoyle, D.M. , McLeish, T.C.B., Munch, E., Schach, R., Smith, A.J. & Thompson, R.L. (2019). Association and Relaxation of Supra-Macromolecular Polymers. Soft Matter 15(26): 5296-5307.
  • Robertson, Ben, Thompson, Richard L., McLeish, Tom C. B. & Robinson, Ian (2019). Polymer extrudate-swell: From monodisperse melts to polydispersity and flow-induced reduction in monomer friction. Journal of Rheology 63(2): 319-333.
  • Briddick, Arron, Fong, Rebecca J., Sabattié, Elise F. D., Li, Peixun, Skoda, Maximilian W. A., Courchay, Florence & Thompson, Richard L. (2018). Blooming of Smectic Surfactant/Plasticizer Layers on Spin-Cast Poly(vinyl alcohol) Films. Langmuir 34(4): 1410–1418.
  • Boothroyd, Stephen C., Johnson, David W., Weir, Michael P., Reynolds, Carl D., Hart, James M., Smith, Andrew J., Clarke, Nigel, Thompson, Richard L. & Coleman, Karl S. (2018). Controlled Structure Evolution of Graphene Networks in Polymer Composites. Chemistry of Materials 30(5): 1524-1531.
  • Reynolds, Carl, Thompson, Richard & McLeish, Tom (2018). Pressure and shear rate dependence of the viscosity and stress relaxation of polymer melts. Journal of Rheology 62(2): 631-642.
  • Fong, Rebecca J., Robertson, Alexander, Mallon, Peter E. & Thompson, Richard L. (2018). The impact of plasticizer and degree of hydrolysis on free volume of poly (vinyl alcohol) films. Polymers 10(9): 1036.
  • Sabattié, Elise, Tasche, Jos, Wilson, Mark Richard, Skoda, Maximilian W. A., Hughes, Arwel V., Lindner, Torsten & Thompson, Richard (2017). Predicting Oligomer/Polymer Compatibility and its Impact on Nanoscale Segregation in Thin Films. Soft Matter 13(19): 3580-3591.
  • Robertson, Ben, Thompson, Richard L., McLeish, Tom C. B. & Robinson, Ian (2017). Theoretical prediction and experimental measurement of isothermal extrudate swell of monodisperse and bidisperse polystyrenes. Journal of Rheology 61(5): 931-945.
  • Zhang, Yiwei, Parnell, Andrew J., Pontecchiani, Fabio, Cooper, Joshaniel F. K., Thompson, Richard L., Jones, Richard A. L., King, Stephen M., Lidzey, David G. & Bernardo, Gabriel (2017). Understanding and controlling morphology evolution via DIO plasticization in PffBT4T-2OD/PC71BM devices. Scientific Reports 7: 44269.
  • Smith, R.F., Boothroyd, S.C., Khosravi, E. & Thompson, R.L. (2016). A facile route for rubber breakdown via cross metathesis reactions. Green Chemistry 18(11): 3448-3455.
  • Weir, M. P., Johnson, D. W., Boothroyd, S. C., Savage, R. C., Thompson, R. L., King, S. M., Rogers, S. E., Coleman, K. S. & Clarke, N. (2016). Distortion of Chain Conformation and Reduced Entanglement in Polymer–Graphene Oxide Nanocomposites. ACS Macro Letters 5(4): 430-434.
  • Weir, Michael P., Johnson, David W., Boothroyd, Stephen C., Savage, Rebecca C., Thompson, Richard L., Parnell, Steven R., Parnell, Andrew J., King, Stephen M., Rogers, Sarah E., Coleman, Karl S. & Clarke, Nigel (2016). Extrinsic Wrinkling and Single Exfoliated Sheets of Graphene Oxide in Polymer Composites. Chemistry of Materials 28(6): 1698-1704.
  • Hart, James M., Kimani, Solomon M., Hutchings, Lian R., Grillo, Isabelle, Hughes, Arwel V., Clarke, Nigel, Garcia-Sakai, Victoria, Rogers, Sarah E., Mendis, Budhika & Thompson, Richard L. (2016). Spontaneous Nanoparticle Dispersal in Polybutadiene by Brush-Forming End-Functional Polymers. Macromolecules 49(4): 1434-1443.
  • Briddick, A., Li, P., Hughes, A., Courchay, F., Martinez, A. & Thompson, R.L. (2016). Surfactant and Plasticizer Segregation in Thin Poly(vinyl alcohol) Films. Langmuir 36(3): 864-872.
  • Lowery, R., Gibson, M.I., Thompson, R.L. & Fullam, E. (2015). Deuterated Carbohydrate Probes as ‘Label-Free’ Substrates for Probing Nutrient Uptake in Mycobacteria by Nuclear Reaction Analysis. Chemical Communications 51(23): 4838-4841.
  • James, Christopher D., Jeynes, Christopher, Barradas, Nuno P., Clifton, Luke, Dalgliesh, Robert M., Smith, Rebecca F., Sankey, Stephen W., Hutchings, Lian R. & Thompson, Richard L. (2015). Modifying Polyester Surfaces with Incompatible Polymer Additives. Reactive and Functional Polymers 89: 40-48.
  • Kingsley, James W., Marchisio, Pier Paolo, Yi, Hunan, Iraqi, Ahmed, Kinane, Christy J., Langridge, Sean, Thompson, Richard L., Cadby, Ashley J., Pearson, Andrew J., Lidzey, David G., Jones, Richard A. L. & Parnell, Andrew J. (2014). Molecular weight dependent vertical composition profiles of PCDTBT:PC71BM blends for organic photovoltaics. Scientific Reports 4: 5286.
  • Kimani, S.M., Thompson, R.L., Hutchings, L.R., Clarke, N., Billah, S.M.R., Sakai, V.G. & Rogers, S.E. (2014). Multihydroxyl End Functional Polyethylenes: Synthesis, Bulk and Interfacial Properties of Polymer Surfactants. Macromolecules 47(6): 2062-2071.
  • Hardman, S.J., Hutchings, L.R., Clarke, N., Kimani, S.M., Mears, L.L.E., Smith, E.F., Webster, J.R.P. & Thompson, R.L. (2012). Surface Modification of Polyethylene with Multi-End-Functional Polyethylene Additives. Langmuir 28(11): 5125-5137.
  • Kimani, SM, Hardman, SJ, Hutchings, LR, Clarke, N & Thompson, RL (2012). Synthesis and surface activity of high and low surface energy multi-end functional polybutadiene additives. Soft Matter 8(12): 3487-3496.
  • Morse, AJ, Edmondson, S, Dupin, D, Armes, SP, Zhang, Z, Leggett, GJ, Thompson, RL & Lewis, AL (2010). Biocompatible polymer brushes grown from model quartz fibres: synthesis, characterisation and in situ determination of frictional coefficient. Soft Matter 6(7): 1571-1579.
  • Mokarian-Tabari, P Geoghegan, M Howse, JR Heriot, SY Thompson, RL & Jones, RAL (2010). Quantitative evaluation of evaporation rate during spin-coating of polymer blend films: Control of film structure through defined-atmosphere solvent-casting. The European Physical Journal E 33(4): 283-289.
  • Clough, A.S., Collins, S.A., Gauntlett, F.E., Hodgson, M.R., Jeynes, C., Rihawy, M.S., Todd, A.M. & Thompson, R.L. (2006). In situ water permeation measurement using an external He-3(2+) ion beam. Journal of Membrane Science 285(1-2): 137-143.
  • Higgins, A.M., Martin, S.J., Geoghegan, M., Heriot, S.Y., Thompson, R.L., Cubitt, R., Dalgliesh, R.M., Grizzi, I. & Jones, R.A.L. (2006). Interfacial structure in conjugated polymers: Characterization and control of the interface between poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene) and poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene-alt-benzothiadiazole). Macromolecules 39(19): 6699-6707.
  • A. Pillay Narrainen, L.R. Hutchings, I. Ansari, N. Clarke & R.L. Thompson (2006). Novel multi end-functionalised polymers. Additives to modify polymer properties at surfaces and interfaces. Soft Matter 2(2): 126-128.
  • Clarke, N., Colley, F.R., Collins, S.A., Hutchings, L.R. & Thompson, R.L. (2005). Self-diffusion and viscoelastic measurements of polystyrene star polymers. Macromolecules 39(3): 1290-1296.

Conference Paper

  • 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.
  • 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.

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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.