Fellow and Tutor in Physical Chemistry

Susan Perkin

  • I am Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry.

  • My research interests include the chemistry and physics of electrolytes, with relevance to energy storage technologies.

  • I serve on the Advisory Boards of Chemical Society Reviews and Soft Matter, and Editorial Board of Faraday Discussions.

  • I have received the RSC Harrison-Meldola Memorial Prize (2016), the Philip Leverhulme Prize (2016), and the RSC Soft Matter Award (2018).

Susan Perkin


As the Tutorial Fellow in Physical Chemistry at Trinity, I offer tutorials to all Trinity undergraduates studying for the MChem. In the Department of Chemistry, I lecture on Statistical Mechanics (2nd year course) and States of Matter (1st year course). I also run an active laboratory and research group, within which I supervise students working towards 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

Smith, A.M., Hallett, J.E. and Perkin, S., ‘Solidification and superlubricity with molecular alkane films’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019), 116 (51), 25418-25423

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.; Perkin S., ‘Switching the Structural Force in Ionic Liquid-Solvent Mixtures by Varying Composition’, Phys. Rev. Lett. (2017), 118, 096002    

Smith, A.M.; Lee, A.A.; Perkin S., ‘The Electrostatic Screening Length in Concentrated Electrolytes Increases with Concentration’, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., (2016), 72157-2163

Professor Perkin

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.