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Electrochemist wins Royal Society Innovation Award

  • Warwick researcher developing diamond based electrochemical technologies that ensure water quality awarded new Royal Society Innovation Award
  • Professor Julie Macpherson investigates the use of boron doped diamond as a pH and chlorine sensor for water safety
  • Most widely used pH sensor is currently a fragile glass bulb pH electrode - based on technology over a century old
  • Receives £250,000 from award

A researcher from the University of Warwick – who is working on water quality monitoring with carbon materials – has been awarded the new Royal Society Innovation Award.

julie and mark

Professor Julie Macpherson from the Department of Chemistry, and her team, have been investigating a new carbon material – synthetically grown boron doped diamond (BDD) - for its electrochemical sensing capabilities.

This material could be used as a pH and chlorine sensor for water quality control and safety.

BDD has all the material attributes of diamond – non-corrosive, scratch resistant, but can electrically conduct due the boron.

This enables BDD to be used as an electrode and placed in solutions other more traditional electrodes, such as metals, couldn’t survive.

Currently, the most widely used pH sensor is a fragile glass bulb pH electrode which is based on technology that is over 100 years old.

The award is given to scientists to develop a proven novel concept or prototype into a near-market ready product – and Professor Macpherson will receive £250,000.

The research is being undertaken in conjunction with Professor Mark Newton (Director of the UK’s centre for doctoral training centre in Diamond Science and Technology) and the industrial company Element Six.

Professor Macpherson comments:

“I am delighted to receive this award, it represents a tremendous opportunity to fully realise the commercial potential of the diamond based sensors that we are currently developing.”

Commenting on the awards, Dr Hermann Hauser KBE FREng FRS, science entrepreneur and co-chair of the Royal Society’s Science, Industry and Translation Committee, says,


“We are delighted to announce the first winners of the Royal Society’s newly expanded Innovation and Translation Awards. These awards support some of the very best, innovative researchers in UK universities to increase their chances of entrepreneurial success. The process of translating research from academia into commercially viable products can be challenging and we are proud to help bridge the journey for nine researchers this year.”

The prizes were presented at "Labs to Riches" on 30 March - an event which focused on the role of science in the UK’s industrial strategy and contribution to economic growth.

The evening brought together leading scientists, engineers, industrialists and policymakers to celebrate the achievements of some of the UK’s most innovative researchers.

3 April 2017

Further information, contact:

Luke Walton, International Press Officer

+44 (0) 7824 540 863

+44 (0) 2476 150 868

L dot Walton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk