Prof. Malcolm McMahon

Personal Chair
Research Theme:
Condensed Matter and Photonics
Research Group:
Hard Condensed Matter
Email address:
Telephone number:
+44 (0)131 650 5956
School of Physics and Astronomy, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FD, United Kingdom

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.

Research outputs

  1. Phase diagram of antimony up to 31 GPa and 835 K DOI
    A. L. Coleman, M. Stevenson, M. I. McMahon and S. G. Macleod, Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 97, 14 (2018)
  2. Ultrafast X-Ray Diffraction Studies of the Phase Transitions and Equation of State of Scandium Shock Compressed to 82 GPa DOI
    R Briggs, M G Gorman, A L Coleman, R S McWilliams, E E McBride, D McGonegle, J S Wark, L Peacock, S Rothman, S G Macleod et al., Physical Review Letters, 118, 2 (2017)
  3. Thallium under extreme compression DOI
    C. Cazorla, S. G. MacLeod, D. Errandonea, K. A. Munro, M. I. McMahon and C. Popescu, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, 28, 44 (2016)
  4. Pressure dependence of the structure and electronic properties of Sr3Ir2O7 DOI
    C. Donnerer, Z. Feng, J. G. Vale, S. N. Andreev, I. V. Solovyev, E. C. Hunter, M. Hanfland, R. S. Perry, H. M. Ronnow, M. I. McMahon et al., Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 93, 17 (2016)
  5. Implementation of Hydrodynamic Simulation Code in Shock Experiment Design for Alkali Metals DOI
    A. L. Coleman, R. Briggs, M. G. Gorman, S. Ali, A. Lazicki, D. C. Swift, P. G. Stubley, E. E. McBride, G. Collins, J. S. Wark et al., : Journal of Physics Conference Series (2016)
  6. Phase transitions in shock compressed bismuth identified using single photon energy dispersive X-ray diffraction (SPEDX) DOI
    R. Briggs, M. J. Suggit, M. G. Gorman, A. Coleman, R. Heathcote, A. Higginbotham, S. Patel, J. S. Wark and M. I. McMahon, : Journal of Physics Conference Series (2016)
  7. Direct Observation of Melting in Shock-Compressed Bismuth With Femtosecond X-ray Diffraction DOI
    M. G. Gorman, R. Briggs, E. E. McBride, A. Higginbotham, B. Arnold, J. H. Eggert, D. E. Fratanduono, E. Galtier, A. E. Lazicki, H. J. Lee et al., Physical Review Letters, 115, 9 (2015)
  8. One-dimensional chain melting in incommensurate potassium DOI
    E. E. McBride, K. A. Munro, G. W. Stinton, R. J. Husband, Richard Briggs, H. -P. Liermann and M. I. McMahon, Physical Review B: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 91, 14 (2015)
  9. Diamonds on Diamond DOI
    M. I. McMahon, Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 373, 2036 (2015)
  10. The crystal structure of methane B at 8 GPa-An alpha-Mn arrangement of molecules DOI
    H. E. Maynard-Casely, L. F. Lundegaard, I. Loa, M. I. McMahon, E. Gregoryanz, R. J. Nelmes and J. S. Loveday, The Journal of Chemical Physics, 141, 23 (2014)
Last updated: 19 Feb 2018 at 21:11