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Dr Thomas Slater

Dr Thomas Slater


School of Chemistry


I am an electron microscopist with a focus on the characterisation of nanomaterials and heterogeneous catalysts. I use aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy to determine the atomic structure of a wide range of materials systems. Characterising the structure of materials down to the atomic scale allows a much greater understanding of their properties. I am particularly interested in determining the surface structure of materials to understand catalytic properties.

I have a particular interest in the three-dimensional imaging of nanomaterials, determining the 3D structure and elemental distribution within nanoparticles. I also have interests in imaging heterogeneous catalysts during reactions in-situ, and in combining different characterisation techniques with electron microscopy to better understand material properties.

For more information on the electron microscopy facilities within the school of chemistry, see here.


MPhys in Physics (2011) at The University of Manchester.

PhD in Electron Microscopy of Nanomaterials (2015) at The University of Manchester, supervised by Sarah Haigh.

Research Associate (2015-2018) at The University of Manchester.

Electron Microscopy Scientist (2018-2022) at the electron Physical Sciences Imaging Centre (ePSIC) at Diamond Light Source.

Appointed Lecturer at Cardiff University (2022).












My main research focus is the development and use of electron microscopy to characterise and understand catalytic materials. In my group, we primarily use aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy to determine the atomic structure of nanoparticle catalysts. Electron microscopy has seen significant advancements over the past decade and is now an underpinning technique to understand the atomic structure of many material systems. I am particularly interested in the following specific topics in electron microscopy.

3D imaging of nanomaterials

The group develops techniques for the three-dimensional imaging of nanomaterials using electron microscopy. We make use of electron tomography to quantify the size, shape and distribution of nanoparticle catalysts and have active projects to push electron tomography to atomic resolution, enabling us to reveal the location of all atoms in a nanoparticle in 3D. We have a lot of experience in spectroscopic electron tomography, in particular in the use of energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy to map the 3D distribution of elements within nanoparticles.

We are also pursuing the use of novel techniques to understand the 3D structure of nanoparticles. Our research includes the use of single particle reconstruction, a technique mainly used for imaging proteins and viruses, and atom counting from single atomic resolution images.

Studying reactions in-situ

The group has a particular interest in the use of in-situ systems to enable imaging of heterogeneous catalysts under reaction conditions. In-situ holders for the transmission electron microscope enable imaging of reactions at atmospheric gas pressures and elevated temperatures (over 1000 °C). Use of the systems enables our group to study a variety of catalysts in-situ to understand how they change in terms of size, shape and elemental composition, all of which have a profound effect on their catalytic properties.

Multiscale correlative imaging

Transmission electron microscopy is a fantastic technique for understanding the atomic structure of materials, but it is severely limited in terms of the amount of material that can be characterised. In our group, we are interested in the use of other imaging techniques (using X-rays and light) in combination with electron microscopy to allow us to understand how atomic structure links to structure at much larger length scales. For example, using X-ray tomography it is possible to image the distribution of catalytic nanoparticles on the millimetre scale, and by linking this with electron microscopy of the same sample, we can then understand how these large scale distributions are linked to structure at the atomic scale.


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