Professor Martin Freer BSc, PhD, FInstP

Professor Martin Freer

School of Physics and Astronomy
Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI)
Director of the Energy Research Accelerator

Contact details

School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Martin Freer is a nuclear physicist, and Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute  (BEI) at the University of Birmingham. He is also Director of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), which comprises eight internationally-renowned Midlands universities which are part of the Midlands Innovation partnership, together with the British Geological Survey.

Martin is former Director of the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research, which he established in 2010. He has overseen the development of the BEI, helped establish Energy Capital and has co-led the establishment of the joint University of Birmingham–Fraunhofer Germany research platform. He led the development of the Birmingham Energy Innovation Hub and the co-development of Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham.

In 2015 he co-led the BEI Commission “Doing Cold Smarter” chaired by Lord Teverson, and in 2012 he led the Policy Commission “Future of Nuclear Energy in the UK” chaired by Lord Hunt, he co-led the Policy Commission with Sir David King which saw the creation of Energy Innovation Zone in the West Midlands and in 2020 published a report on The Road to Low-Carbon Heat with the CBI chaired by Lord Billimoria. Most recently, he led the policy commission “Pathways for Local Heat delivery” chaired by Sir John Armitt. He has championed the establishment of a National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat. His main research area is the study of the structure of light nuclei, using nuclear reactions. He received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prize, Humboldt Foundation, in 2004 and the Rutherford Medal in 2010.

His main research area is the study of the structure of light nuclei, using nuclear reactions. This research is performed at international facilities worldwide. In addition, he is actively engaged in promoting research and educational programmes to support the UK’s investment in nuclear power generation. He received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prize, Humboldt Foundation, Germany in 2004 and the Rutherford Medal (IoP) in 2010.


  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics 
  • PhD in Nuclear Physics, University of Birmingham, 1991 
  • BSc. (Hons) Maths and Physics, Aston University, 1987


Martin Freer obtained his PhD in Nuclear Physics in 1991 from the University of Birmingham.

Thereafter he worked at the Argonne National Laboratory on the heavy-ion accelerator programme (ATLAS).

In 1993 he returned to the UK as an SERC/EPSRC Advanced Fellow and then went on to become a member of the academic staff of the School of Physics and Astronomy in 1998. He is now head of Nuclear Physics and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research and the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI).

In recognition for his contribution to the field of nuclear clustering (the study of clusterisation in nuclear matter) he received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Prize, Humboldt Foundation, Germany in 2004 and the Rutherford Medal (IoP) 2010.

He has served on a number of international advisory panels for both scientific facilities (GANIL, France – chair; iThemba, South Africa) and for the Finland Academy. He has also severed on the UK Nuclear Physics Grants Panel (STFC) and is chair of the Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel (STFC).


Teaching Programmes 

  • Year 1: Optics and Waves 
  • Year 2: Physics and Communication Skills 
  • Year 3: Nuclear Physics 
  • Year 3: General Physics 
  • Year 4: Nuclear Physics 
  • Year 4: Projects 
  • Postgraduate: Electronics
  • Postgraduate: Laboratories

Postgraduate supervision

PhD's in Nuclear Structure.


Research Themes 

  • Nuclear Structure and Nuclear Reactions
  • Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay

Research activity

  • Member of the R3B collaboration at FAIR, GSI, Germany

Other activities

  • Chair of the Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel 
  • Member of UK Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel 
  • Advisor to Finish Academy 
  • Chair of GANIL Programme Advisory Panel (France)
  • Previous member of the iThemba Scientific Advisory Committee


Freer M. (2010), Clusters in Nuclei, Scholarpedia, 5(6):9652. doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.9652

Freer, M., et al. (2009), 2+ excitation of the C-12 Hoyle state, Phys. Rev. C 80: 041303

Catford, W.N., Freer M., et al. (2010), Migration of Nuclear Shell Gaps Studied in the d(Ne-24, p gamma)Ne-25 Reaction, Phys. Rev. Letts. 104: 192501

Freer, M., et al., (2006) :2n: structure in 10Be, Phys. Rev. Letts. 96; 042501

Freer, M. (2007) The clustered nucleus—cluster structures in stable and unstable nuclei, Rep. Prog. Phys. 70 No 12; 2149

von Oertzen, W., Freer, M. and Kanada-En’yo Y. (2006), Nuclear clusters and nuclear molecules, Physics Reports 432; 43

Ashwood, N.I, Freer, M., et al. (2004) Helium clustering in neutron-rich Be isotopes, Lett. B 580; 129

Freer, M., et al., (1999) Exotic Molecular States in 12Be, Phys. Rev. Lett. 82; 1383

View all publications in research portal


Nuclear physics; nuclear education; nuclear power research; pure nuclear science; waste management; decommissioning; energy; decarbonisation;

Languages and other information

Martin is leading the University of Birmingham's Policy Commission on Nuclear Energy


  • Chair of the Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel
  • Member of UK Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel

Media experience


Nuclear, nuclear decommissioning, sustainable cooling, energy innovation zones, decarbonising heat, energy from waste, pathways for local heat delivery

Policy experience

Pathways for Local Heat Delivery Policy Commission - June 2022 (pdf 7mb)

The Pathways for Local Heat Delivery Policy Commission report examines all the components that are required to deliver a local heat solution and the barriers that need removing. Chaired by Sir John Armitt and delivered by the University of Birmingham in partnership with Energy Research Accelerator, the Commission have used the City of Birmingham as a case study and examined: planning; finance; consumer engagement and the role for mandation and zoning; local authority expertise and capacity; and challenges presented by the local infrastructure (e.g., gas and electricity grid).

The Road to Low-Carbon Heat Policy Commission - July 2020 (pdf -3mb)

Heat accounts for over a third of UK carbon emissions and is the most difficult challenge we face en-route to net zero by 2050. This Policy Commission report established by the University of Birmingham and the CBI outlines the colossal challenge of decarbonising heat in the UK, what the challenge means for businesses, consumers and communities.

The report calls for the establishment of an independent, time-limited, impartial National Delivery Body (NDB) that will work with government on creating, coordinating and delivering an overarching NDB.  The proposed National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat (NCDH) could prove pivotal in the local delivery of the NDB’s work.

Energy from waste and the Circular Economy, June 2020 (pdf - 17mb)

The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and the Birmingham Energy Institute policy commission report provides a blueprint for how the UK can lead the world in managing its waste and converting it into clean energy. The Energy from Waste and the Circular Economy Policy Commission looks at the ways in which the UK and the Midlands in particular can take advantage of its industry, facilities and expertise in energy to become a global leader in this area.

Powering West Midlands Growth: A Regional Approach to Clean Energy Innovation, March 2018 (pdf - 21MB)

Energy Capital together with the University of Birmingham and the Energy Systems Catapult have unveiled a policy commission report making the case for the creation of Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs) in the West Midlands. The report states the main focus of the EIZs will be to integrate low carbon technologies, to develop the business models and infrastructure needed to support new approaches to clean energy as well as overcome the regulatory barriers necessary for them to flourish.  They will be designed to stimulate local clean energy innovation and drive productivity within the region, exports and growth.

The Role of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in Delivering Energy Security for the UK, March 2017 (pdf)

The paper explores the importance of a revised energy security framework. A more long-term view could underpin improvements in UK energy security through targeted future infrastructure investments in low-carbon technologies.

A clear and reliable policy framework will enable the Government, industry, and academia to work together to determine how best to ensure the country’s energy security during the transition to a low-carbon energy system.

Clean Cold and the Global Goals, January 2017 (pdf - 9mb)

The report investigates how clean cold could help to achieve almost all of the United Nations’ (UN) Global Goals.

The report highlights that, as the world’s population heads to 9 billion by mid-century - increasing projected food demand by 60% - we will need far more cooling to conserve food, water and other resources; tackle poverty, hunger, health and climate change; and underpin growth and development.

Education and Training in Nuclear Decommissioning, December 2015 (pdf - 3mb)

The decommissioning of nuclear facilities is growing worldwide, creating job opportunities at all educational levels. Nuclear decommissioning is the industrial process of dismantling and decontaminating nuclear facilities and site remediation, removing them from regulatory control.

The report provides suggestions for helping the development, coordination and promotion of adequate education and training programmes at EU level in nuclear decommissioning.

Doing Cold Smarter report, October 2015 (pdf - 8mb)

Cold is vitally important to modern day life. It underpins the supply of food and medicine, enables the growth of data networks and makes buildings and transportation more comfortable. The lack of cold has massive social and environmental impacts.

The report explores the challenges and opportunities for the UK.