The Britton Research Group

The Britton group develop nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and imaging (MRI) methods for the characterisation of complex chemical systems and the visualisation of chemical processes.

Using a variety of NMR experiments, including T1and T2NMR relaxation measurements, spin echo imaging, pulsed field gradient (PFG) measurements and velocity imaging, her group are providing unique insights concerning the molecular processes underpinning systems found in a range of applications from structured materials, manufacturing and energy storage, to medical applications relevant in the diagnosis of cancer and the development of biomarkers. Her group has particular interests in the visualisation of electrochemical processes in batteries, corrosion and electroplating; the visualisation of chemistry in flow and heterogeneous media; probing colloidal stability; the development of MRI contract agents and the characterisation of reverse micelles.

Britton group photo

Dr. Melanie M. Britton

Group Members

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Joshua Bray

PhD Students

  • Sarah Newton
  • Emma Thompson
  • Erin Birch

Masters Project Students

  • Megan Roberts

Erasmus Exchange Project Students

  • Pierre Godillion (École nationale supérieure de chimie et de physique de Bordeaux)
  • Morgane Bessaa (École nationale supérieure de chimie de Paris)

Past Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Members

  • Catherine Smith
  • Matthew Berwick
  • Amanda Mills
  • Susan Law
  • Antoine Vallatos
  • Heather Rose
  • Jan Novak
  • Nicola Halliday
  • Daniel Binks


Recent Publications

"Quantitative, in-situ visualisation of metal ion dissolution and transport using 1H magnetic resonance imaging"

Joshua M. Bray, Alison J. Davenport, Karl S. Ryder, and Melanie M. Britton Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 55 (2016) 9394 –9397

This paper reports, for the first time, the quantitative mapping of metal ion dissolution and transport - non-invasively, in-situ, in 3D and in real-time - using 1H MRI of the electrolyte, overcoming a widely held belief that it is not possible to use MRI to visualise electrochemical processes near bulk-metals.  The dissolution of metallic copper is investigated, which is of significant industrial, societal and academic relevance. However, the insight gained from these measurements goes beyond the field of corrosion, and is of particular significance for the development of batteries. Currently, there are very few examples of MRI being used to quantitatively map the transport of electroactive species during battery operation and the few published have employed 7Li MRI and, thus, been restricted to studying lithium-ion batteries.  Yet, there are many other emerging metal-ion or metal-air batteries, involving electroactive species that cannot be visualised directly by MRI.  Crucially, the methodology reported in this paper can be readily modified and extended to provide valuable insights into these promising batteries technologies, as well as other electrochemical technologies.


“Mapping B1-induced eddy current effects near metallic structures in MR images: A comparison of simulation and experiment"

S. Vashaee, F. Goora, M. M. Britton, B. Newling, B. J. Balcom, J. Magn. Reson., 250 (2015) 17-24.

 This papers investigates the image distortions produced around metal structures in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) experiments.  Understanding the origins of these artifacts is important in minimising their influence on imaging data in systems where bulk metals are found, such as metal body implants in medical imaging or metal electrodes in battery research. The effects of metals with difference magnetic properties are studied, experimentally and computationally, along with the influence of sample orientation inside the magnetic and radiofrequency fields of an MRI instrument. 



 “Probing composition and molecular mobility in thin spherical films using nuclear magnetic resonance measurements of diffusion”

A. Vallatos, R. M. Kirsch, R. A. Williams, R. B. Hammond, X. Jia, U. Bröckel and M. M. Britton, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 54 (2015) 6825–6830.

AVallatosfigThis paper investigates the characterisation of thin spherical films formed on the surface of pore walls in a sponge or formed by absorbed water on the surface of urea prills during caking, using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements of diffusion. The characterisation of thin films in porous media is of enormous interest for a range of chemistry, environmental science, chemical engineering and industrial applications.  In this work, we look at the thickness, composition, molecular transport and distribution of liquid layers formed on the surface of urea prills during caking. Caking is a widespread problem in the processing and handling of prilled materials in the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, which can result in reduced flowability and processibility of these materials.  We perform the first quantitative characterisation of the liquid films formed on the surface of prills during caking. We compare the properties of thin liquid films in the urea prills, with thin layers of urea solutions inside a sponge at low saturation.  While the measurements in the sponge are performed primarily as a control for the prill system, we also believe the techniques demonstrated in this paper will be of significant interest to industrial researchers interested in the behaviour of other fluids (eg surfactant/micelle solutions) at low saturation in sponges, as well as the characterisation other porous structures such as foams or encapsulated particles.

"NMR and Molecular Dynamics Study of the Size, Shape, and Composition of Reverse Micelles in a Cetyltrimethylammonium Bromide (CTAB)/n-Hexane/Pentanol/Water Microemulsion"

A.J. Mills, J. Wilkie and M.M. Britton, J. Phys. Chem. B, 118 (2014) 10767–10775.

AJM-table-of-contentsThis paper focuses on the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and molecular dynamics to investigate the behaviour of reverse micelles in the CTAB/water/pentanol/hexane microemulsion. Reverse micelles have a broad range of applications and are frequently used as templates in nanoparticle synthesis, drug delivery and biomolecule carriers, and reactors for chemical and enzymatic reactions. For all of these applications a more detailed understanding of the microstructure, size and shape of the reverse micelles used is necessary. NMR can provide useful information on the microstructure and dynamics of reverse micelles through determination of the mobility and environment of the component molecules in the system. In particular, it is the diffusion of the CTAB surfactant and the cosurfactant, pentanol, that has been used to probe this microemulsion.  In addition to the experimental data, molecular dynamics gives vital information on the shape and composition of the reverse micelles. By combing NMR with molecular dynamics, we are able to determine that the reverse micelles are oblate in shape and that there is an exchange of surfactant and cosurfactant molecules between different environments, which is surprising slow, on the millisecond timescale.

Click here for full list of publications.

Click here to find out about positions available in the group.

Click here to find out about our Magnetic Resonance micro-Imaging Capabilities.