Malcolm McMahon

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  M I 
Professor M I McMahon, DSc, FRSE

Professor M I McMahon, DSc, FRSE


Professor of High Pressure Physics

Contact details

Email: m [dot] i [dot] mcmahon [at] ed [dot] ac [dot] uk
Tel: +44 (0)131 650 5956
Location: Room 3804, JCMB


Research institute

Research area

Biographical information

Research interests

Prof McMahon's research is in the behaviour of materials at extremes of pressure and temperature.

At extreme pressures, where atoms are pushed close together, it was long assumed that all materials would become metallic, with simple, close-packed crystal structures. By investigating the structures of materials under such conditions using synchrotron radiation, McMahon’s research has shown that this is untrue, and that even the simplest of elements adopt wholly unexpected structural complexity at high density. The array of complex and incommensurate structures that has been unveiled are unlike anything seen at ambient conditions. In addition to using synchrotron storage rings, McMahon also uses large laser platforms and x-ray lasers to investigate the behaviour of materials under dynamic compression on femtosecond timescales.

McMahon was awarded a DSc degree by the University of Edinburgh in 2006, and appointed to a Personal Chair in High Pressure Physics in 2007. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and holds a William Penney Fellowship with AWE. He was awarded the inaugural Louis Delbaere Prize of the Canadian Light Source in 2010, and awarded a Humboldt Research Award in 2013.


I am Course Organiser for the 2nd year Practical Physics course, and class leader for both the Data Analysis and Laboratory components of this course.

I host both Senior Honours and MPhys projects.

Recent publications

  1. Direct Observation of Melting in Shock-Compressed Bismuth With Femtosecond X-ray Diffraction DOI
    , , , , , , , , , et al., Physical Review Letters, 115, 9
  2. One-dimensional chain melting in incommensurate potassium DOI
    , , , , , and , Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 91, 14
  3. Diamonds on Diamond DOI
    , Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 373, 2036
  4. The crystal structure of methane B at 8 GPa-An alpha-Mn arrangement of molecules DOI
    , , , , , and , The Journal of Chemical Physics, 141, 23
  5. Incommensurate-to-incommensurate phase transition in Eu metal at high pressures DOI
    , , , , , and , Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 90, 21