About Me

Dr. Richard Johnston is an Associate Professor in the Materials Research Centre, Swansea University, a 2013 British Science Association Media Fellow (based at Nature), and a 2015 Software Sustainability Institute Fellow.

Embracing a multidisciplinary approach, Richard's research has taken him from artificial intelligence in manufacturing, through gas turbine materials (abradables, nickel superalloys, ceramic matrix composites), and on to X-ray microtomography. He leads the X-ray Imaging group at Swansea, and chairs the Swansea University Research Forum (SURF) Executive Group. He is also Co-Director of the Materials Academy and sits on the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining Education Committee, in addition to devising the #ResearchAsArt Awards and PI of the outreach and engagement programme Materials: Live.

Research grant capture as PI or Co-I of over £20Million since 2014, and is Co-Director of the £9M EPSRC/WG-funded Advanced Imaging of Materials (AIM) centre. Richard is an advocate of collaboration, and a champion of public engagement with research.

Richard has written for Nature, Scientific American, The Guardian, Huffington Post, and has worked on TV documentaries with the BBC (Rhys Jones’ Wildlife Patrol) and Horizon (Animal Mummies).

For more information visit Dr Johnston’s research group website.

Areas of Expertise

  • X-ray microtomography
  • Aerospace materials
  • Characterisation
  • Bioinspiration


  1. & Visualizing tephra deposits and sedimentary processes in the marine environment: The potential of X-ray microtomography. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 16(12), 4329-4343.
  2. & The effects of thermomechanical history on the microstructure of a nickel-base superalloy during forging. Materials Science and Engineering: A 668
  3. & Mechanical characterisation of a fibre reinforced oxide/oxide ceramic matrix composite. Journal of the European Ceramic Society
  4. & The biter bit? Investigation of possible in-ovo self-envenomation in an Egyptian saw-scaled viper using region of interest X-ray microtomography. PeerJ Preprints e624v1
  5. Mechanical characterisation of AlSi-hBN, NiCrAl-Bentonite, and NiCrAl-Bentonite-hBN freestanding abradable coatings. Surface and Coatings Technology 205(10), 3268-3273.

See more...


  • EG-381 Fracture and Fatigue

    To provide a detailed understanding of fracture mechanics and fatigue modelling of materials; relating to real-world case studies and current cutting-edge research.

  • EGA163 Design and Laboratory Classes 1

    Module Aims: competence in engineering drawing using CAD and essential laboratory skills.

  • EGM402 Fracture and Fatigue

    To provide a detailed understanding of fracture mechanics and fatigue modelling of materials; relating to real-world case studies and current cutting-edge research.


  • Genetic and MicroCT analysis of human remains from the Mary Rose collection (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Mr Nicholas Owen
  • Imaging and image analysis of medical devices (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Raoul Van Loon
    Other supervisor: Dr Sam Rolland
  • 'Understanding Abradable Coating Systems' (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Worsley
  • Bioinspired investigation via x-ray computed micromography (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Worsley
  • Untitled (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Siwan Davies
  • 'Analysing the effects of near-future ocean acidification on the otolith development in European sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax, using x-ray microtomography' (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Ed Pope
  • 'Laser ultrasonic testing for on-line inspection of laser metal deposition' (awarded 2016)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Worsley
  • 'Hot section components - Characterisation of thermomechanical behaviours of advanced casing and bolting alloys' (awarded 2016)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof David Worsley
  • 'Iron Oxide corrosion products on the waterside of marine boiler superheaters' (awarded 2014)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Geraint Williams

Key Grants and Projects

  • Advanced Imaging of Materials (AIM) 2015

    EPSRC - Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), £2.5 Million

  • The Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbine Applications 2014

    EPSRC – Co-Investigator (Co-I), £12Million

  • COATED2 Centre for Doctoral Training 2014

    EPSRC – Co-Investigator (Co-I), £6.5 Million

  • X-ray Microtomography Equipment 2012

    Swansea University – Principal Investigator (PI), £300,000

  • Strategic Partnerships EngD 2011

    EPSRC – Principal Investigator (PI), £120,000

  • Strategic Partnerships PhD 2011

    EPSRC – Principal Investigator (PI), £90,000

  • Strategic Partnerships PhD 2012

    EPSRC – Principal Investigator (PI), £90,000

  • Materials:Live 2 2013

    NSA Welsh Government – Principal Investigator (PI), £116,933

  • DTA PhD 2013

    EPSRC – Principal Investigator (PI), £75,000

  • British Science Association Media Fellowship with Nature 2013

  • Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship 2015

  • Future research leaders of Wales 2013

    Welsh Crucible

  • X-ray µCT of Mary Rose remains 2015

    Swansea University PhD Bursary, £57,000

  • X-ray CT of tephra cores 2014

    Swansea University PhD Bursary, £57,000

  • Using ‘digital’ Materials to Establish a Novel Investigative Platform for Cardiac Arrest 2014

    National Research Networks – Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), £57,000

  • Public Engagement w/ Research/Research as Art 2014

    Swansea University Business Plan, £55,037 p.a.

  • Materials Live 2012

    NSA Welsh Government HEFCW – Principal Investigator (PI), £46,427

  • PhD studentship 2007

    TIMET UK – Principal Investigator (PI), £40,000

  • Escalation and Expansion of X-Ray Microtomography and its Application to the Field of Tephrochronology 2013

    EPSRC/BTG – Principal Investigator (PI), £18,000

  • Research as Art 2013

    EPSRC/BTG – Principal Investigator (PI), £12,261

  • Providing new model organisms for biomedical research: The tale of molluscs, mice and men 2013

    Welsh Crucible, £10,000

  • Can providing 3D printing be used to enhance cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques? 2013

    Welsh Crucible - Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), £10,000

  • Research as Art 2012

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps - Principal Investigator (PI), £5000

  • Research as Art 2014

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps - Principal Investigator (PI), £5000

  • Science and Science Outreach – and knowledge transfer between (with Co-I Science Museum London) 2014

    SIP HEFCW -Principal Investigator (PI), £2,500

  • Pathways for Public Engagement with University Research (With Co-I Royal Institution London) 2012

    SIP HEFCW -Principal Investigator (PI), £2,500

  • Materials Science Surgery 2011

    HEA/HESTEM – Principal Investigator (PI), £2,130

  • Materials Science Surgery – the transition from student to scientist 2011

    SALT Swansea University Learning and Teaching Grant – Principal Investigator (PI), £2,000

  • Research as Art 2011

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps - Principal Investigator (PI), £1,900

  • Research as Art 2010

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps/SURF - Principal Investigator (PI), £1,800

  • MAM (Materials: Ancient & Modern) 2013

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps - Co-Investigator (CI), £1,740

  • Investigation of the corrosive/erosive effects of macrophage on implant materials 2012

    EPSRC Student Vacation Bursary – Principal Investigator (PI), £1,200

  • SURF Seminar series 2013

    EPSRC/Bridging the Gaps - Co-Investigator (CI), £750

Public Engagements


Research as Art is a University-wide initiative that aims to develop the engagement skills of students and staff, fertilise cross-disciplinary collaboration, raise the profile of Swansea research and its researchers, and make the University a better place to study and work.The project provides a unique mechanism of accessible outreach for all research, displaying the important and far-reaching work, and also the human aspect and emotion of research that goes on at Swansea University to a diverse and new audience.

Submissions are visually striking artwork or images and accessible, engaging text – resulting in a truly unique initiative.

Engagement Image 1

This image won the Early Career Researcher award in Swansea University’s 2013 Research as Art competition. Engineer Matt Carnie explains that these solar cells from failed experiments represent a notion familiar in science – that “behind every success there are many times when things didn’t quite go according to plan".

More information about Research As Art can be found here.

Materials: Live!

Engagement Image 2

An innovative Swansea University outreach and engagement project, which introduces the wonder of materials science and engineering to entertain, enthuse and educate potential scientists and engineers of the future. Materials Live! forms a critical component of the “Materials Academy” at Swansea; a large project that delivers multi-level materials research and training.

  • Provide activities that enrich the Key Stages 1- 4 Science National Curriculum in addition to A/AS level curricula.
  • Encourage people to study STEM subjects related careers.
  • Engage with teachers and deliver CPD activities to enhance the materials science-related content in their lessons.

More information about Materials:Live! can be found here.


Engagement Image 3

…is an art/science/tech collaboration between Rich and local photo artist Naomi Bowey, exploring the effects objects have on our behaviour – looking at forms of collection, archiving and the compulsive act of hoarding. Naomi details the processes involved in conceiving, modifying, and ultimately producing a piece for exhibition at here other website

Awards And Prizes

Date Description
2014 Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship
2014 The Bridging the Gaps Award for Outstanding Excellence in Public Engagement
2013 British Science Association Fellow at Nature
2013 Welsh Crucible - Future Research Leaders
2007 Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining (IOM3) Rose Bowl Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis/Publications/Contribution
2003 UWS School of Engineering MRes Training Award (Highest percentage in examinations)
2003 MRes Cogent Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis
2002 Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers (Highest percentage in metallurgy examinations)
2002 Armourers & Brasiers Medal and Prize (Overall excellence in metallurgy)
2002 Hugh O’Neill Prize (Best final year coursework)
2002 Institute of Materials Prize (Graduated top of the year: most outstanding student over 3 years)
2002 Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Medal (Best final year student)
2001 Swansea and District Metallurgical Society Prize
2000 P.W.Davies Scholarship (Greater than 70% in BEng examinations)
2000 3M/Rolls Royce/Corus Industrial Scholarship
1999 Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers BEng Entrance Scholarship
1999 Institute of Materials BEng Entrance Scholarship

External Responsibilities

  • Invited Member, Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining - Education Committee

    2013 - Present


Research at the JohnstonLab in Swansea University typically covers a number of diverse fields, but is primarily focussed on characterisation of structures using X-Ray Microtomography. The group has experience investigating many varied materials, from plant and biological specimens, to dense superalloys.

We have a focus on biomimetics and bioinspiration. Using X-Ray CT to investigate the hidden internal worlds of nature, and thinking about how and why these structures formed.  We then look for challenging engineering applications that could benefit from the inspiration gained from these natural architectures. Utilising 3D-printing, we can create rapid replicas or prototypes of previously hidden structures found via X-ray CT, demonstrated on an everyday object.

The group also researches aerospace materials, focussing on the destructive and non-destructive characterisation of abradable coatings, ceramic-matrix-composites, and nickel-based superalloys among others. Corrosion studies of zinc and steel alloys are also ongoing.

Also, the group has expertise in applying artificial intelligence to a number of areas including manufacturing, process optimisation, creep of metals, and sports performance.

Specific strengths in X-ray computed tomography have resulted in collaborations with glaciology, tephrochronology, regenerative medicine, Egyptology, corrosion scientists, and many others.

RJ Xray Image 1 RJ Xray Image 2

The underlying ethos behind work at JohnstonLab is that we are passionate about interdisciplinary and collaborative research; and the excitement and energy that working with researchers from very different fields can provide.

Current Research Projects include:

Nature’s Hidden Worlds – Investigating internal architectures within nature via X-ray microtomography. The aim is to consider the function of natural structures non-destructively, using 3-dimensional data to optimise the engineering and design of structures at varying length scales. Evolutionary optimisation, biomimetics, and bioinspiration leading to improved engineering. With PhD student Laura North @Loobags87

Abradable Coating Materials –  The aim of this research project is to study numerous mechanical characterisation technologies to further understand how abradable coatings behave. This data will also feed into a model that has been constructed to help predict abradable material life times in service. With PhD student Dan Moyle @DanMoyle8 and in collaboration with Rolls-Royce plc.

Gas Turbine Superalloys – The aim of this project is to develop optimum forming and heat treatment routes for selected casing and bolting alloys in gas turbines – in particular, ring rolling of Nickel-based superalloys. With EngD student Sam Gardner and in collaboration with Rolls-Royce plc.

Laser Ultrasonics – Investigating laser ultrasonics and their application to additive manufacturing. With PhD student Simon Garner and in partnership with TWI.

Imaging of Volcanic Debris/Tephrochronology – A collaborative project with Prof. Siwan Davies, Adam Griggs, and Dr Peter Abbott, investigating X-ray CT as a method of imaging volcanic deposits and networks in sub-sea core samples.

RJ Xray Image 3 RJ Xray Image 4

Ancient Egyptian Clay Cobra Figurines – Collaborative project with Dr Kasia Szpakowska investigating failure mechanisms in clay cobra figurines, relating fracture behaviour to human behaviour. A nice taster video

Using ‘digital’ Materials to Establish a Novel Investigative Platform for Cardiac Arrest – Collaborative project with Dr Peter Theobald (Cardiff Uni) to develop a realistic material heart model via additive layer manufacturing

Medical Device Optimisation – An industry collaboration with Dr Steve Brown (Haemair Ltd.), Dr Raoul van Loon (Swansea University) and Claudio Donofrio (PhD student) imaging device architecture and modelling bloodflow.

Providing new model organisms for biomedical research: The tale of molluscs, mice and men – Collaborative project with Dr Anwen Williams (Cardiff University) and Dr Andrew Davies (Bangor University) to investigate the feasibility of molluscs as new model organisms for bone.

MAM (Materials: Ancient and Modern) – A collaborative project with Dr Ian Mabbett, Dr Matt Carnie, and Dr Tracey Rihll. Taking inspiration from Roman concrete, we’re investigating the use of waste slags from industrial sites.

Additive Protection – A collaboration with Dr Peter Theobald investigating optimised structures from additive layer manufacturing applied to the safety and impact industry.

Arthritis Research – Collaborating with Anwen Williams (Cardiff University) on her arthritis project and investigating new ways of characterising arthritic features.

Structure-Property Relationships in Biomaterials – Collaborating with Dr Michelle Oyen (Cambridge University) on a number of themes, materials, and species to investigate the physical architecture of natural materials and their mechanical properties.

Degradation of Titanium Implant Materials – Collaboration with Dr Zhidao Xia (Swansea University) to investigate ‘biocompatible’ titanium alloys and their degradation in the body

Cartilage Regrowth – Working with Dr Ilyas Khan and Dr Lewis Frances (Swansea University) to study and characterise cartilage regrowth mechanisms.

RJ Xray Image 5