Susan Perkin
Fellow and Tutor in Chemistry

Another focus in my research  lab is ‘nano-friction’: we want to understand how molecules behave when subjected to shear stress, and how modifying the chemistry of a surface alters its lubrication and friction properties.


I am a Tutorial Fellow in Physical Chemistry at Trinity, and Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford. After comprehensive school education in the UK I studied at Oxford for the MChem (2002) and DPhil (2006). My DPhil was supervised by Jacob Klein (Weizmann Institute, Israel), and I studied various problems involving electrostatic interactions between particles in fluids. I was elected to a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford (2005-2008), then appointed as RCUK Academic Fellow then Lecturer at University College London (2007-2012). At UCL I set up a laboratory for experimental measurements of particle and surface interactions in electrolytes.

In 2012 I returned to Oxford, as Associate Professor then as Professor (2019).  In addition to my research and teaching in Oxford, I serve on the Advisory Boards of Soft Matter and Chemical Society Reviews, and various committees and panels of The Royal Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In the past few years I been awarded a £1.5M grant from the European Research Council (2015), the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Harrison-Meldola Memorial Prize (2016), the Philip Leverhulme Prize (2016), and the Soft Matter Lectureship (2018) from the journal Soft Matter.


I tutor all areas of Physical Chemistry. I lecture in Statistical Mechanics (2nd year course) and States of Matter (1st year course). I also run an active research group in the Department of Chemistry where I supervise students for Part II (4th year undergraduate) and DPhil.


I am particularly interested in the physics and physical chemistry of liquids. Liquids seem quite ‘normal’ to us because, on Earth, liquid water is all around us. However, from a molecular and thermodynamic point of view, liquids are rather special: to understand and predict their behaviour it is necessary to know the delicate balance between molecular attractions and repulsions. I am particularly interested in liquids containing ions – electrolytes.  In my laboratory we use a custom-built apparatus to study the properties and interactions in concentrated electrolytes and in ionic liquids. We investigate how these liquids behave when confined to nanoscopic spaces and how they respond various electrical perturbations in order to better understand their electrolytic properties. These findings contribute to the design of electrolytes for batteries and other energy storage devices. Another direction of work involves looking into the molecular mechanisms of friction and lubrication by thin liquid films.  Many fluids, when confined to the thin films, alter dramatically their physical properties (for example making a transition from liquid to solid). These fundamental physical chemistry phenomena impact many applications from automotive engineering to nanotechnology, and we work alongside several companies to transfer knowledge and understanding from our research into practical application.

Selected Publications

For full details see

  • Perez-Martinez, C. and Perkin, S. ‘Surface forces generated by the action of electric fields across liquid films’ Soft Matter  (2019)15, 4255-4265.
  • Lhermerout, R. and Perkin, S. ‘Nanoconfined ionic liquids: Disentangling electrostatic and viscous forces’ Phys. Rev. Fluids  (2018)  3, 014201
  • Lee, A., Perez-Martinez, C., Smith, A., Perkin, S. ‘Scaling analysis of the screening length in concentrated electrolytes’ Phys. Rev. Lett. (2017) 119, 026002
  • Smith, A.M.; Lee, A.A.; Perkin S. ‘The Electrostatic Screening Length in Concentrated Electrolytes Increases with Concentration’ J. Phys. Chem. Lett.  (2016)  7, 2157-2163.
  • Smith, A. M.; Lovelock, K. R. J.; Gosvami, N. N.; Welton, T.; Perkin, S. ‘Quantized friction across ionic liquid thin films.’ Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics, (2013), 15, p.15317-15320
  • Perkin, S.; Crowhurst, L.; Niedermeyer, H.; Welton, T.; Smith, A. M.; Gosvami, N. N. ‘Self-assembly in the electrical double layer of ionic liquid.’ Chemical Communications, (2011) 47, p.6572.