School of Physics and Astronomy

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Dr Hugo K Christenson

Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group

Contact details

Room: 8.36
Tel: +44 (0)113 3433879
Email: h.k.christenson @


Crystal growth
Capillary condensation
Phase behaviour
Surface forces

Research interests

We have shown how amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC), the precursor phase to the biominerals calcite and aragonite, may be stabilised by confinement alone, without the need for specific interactions with biomolecules. In the presence of polymers like polyaspartic acid ACC will enter submicron pores via capillary action. When the ACC eventually crystallises to calcite, single-crystal nanowires of aspect ratios as high as 100 are produced.

We have identified for the first time an amorphous precursor phase to calcium sulphate (bassanite and gypsum). The former of these is an unusual biomineral found in the statoliths of certain jellyfish.

We have recently shown experimentally for the first time that crystal deposition from vapour may proceed without the need for any supersaturation via a two-step mechanism. Supercooled liquid capillary condenses in surface grooves or pits, and nucleation of crystals then occurs in these. Ongoing work is seeking to establish any connection btween capillary condensation and the enhanced nucleation rates often found on surfaces with topographical defects.

I retain an interest in wetting, and work yet to be published has shown how fascinating and beautiful two-dimensional dendritic structures and ordered arrays of crystals may be deposited as salt solutions dewet a smooth surface.

Useful links

personal website


Schremb M, Campbell JM, Christenson HK, Tropea C Ice Layer Spreading along a Solid Substrate during Solidification of Supercooled Water: Experiments and Modeling Langmuir 33 4870-4877, 2017
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Campbell JM, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Observing the formation of ice and organic crystals in active sites Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 810-815, 2017
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Anduix-Canto C, Kim YY, Wang YW, Kulak A, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Effect of nanoscale confinement on the crystallization of potassium ferrocyanide Crystal Growth and Design 16 5403-5411, 2016
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Ye S, Benz F, Wheeler MC, Oram J, Baumberg JJ, Cespedes O, Christenson HK, Coletta PL, Jeuken LJC, Markham AF, Critchley K, Evans SD One-step fabrication of hollow-channel gold nanoflowers with excellent catalytic performance and large single-particle SERS activity Nanoscale 8 14932-14942, 2016
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Christenson HK, Thomson NH The nature of the air-cleaved mica surface Surface Science Reports 71 367-390, 2016
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Campbell JM, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Is ice nucleation from supercooled water insensitive to surface roughness? Journal of Physical Chemistry C 119 1164-1169, 2015
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Wang YW, Christenson HK, Meldrum FC Confinement increases the lifetimes of hydroxyapatite precursors Chemistry of Materials 26 5830-5838, 2014
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Culligan EM, Christenson HK Cohesion of granular matter in subzero humidity Journal of Physical Chemistry C 118 15929-15933, 2014
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Ihli J, Wong WC, Noel EH, Kim Y-Y, Kulak AN, Christenson HK, Duer MJ, Meldrum FC Dehydration and crystallization of amorphous calcium carbonate in solution and in air. Nat Commun 5 3169-, 2014
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Harrington GF, Campbell JM, Christenson HK Crystal Patterns Created by Rupture of a Thin Film CRYSTAL GROWTH&DESIGN 13 5062-5067, 2013

Santos S, Barcons V, Christenson HK, Billingsley DJ, Bonass WA, Font J, Thomson NH Stability, resolution, and ultra-low wear amplitude modulation atomic force microscopy of DNA: Small amplitude small set-point imaging Applied Physics Letters 103 -, 2013
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Campbell JM, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Characterization of preferred crystal nucleation sites on mica surfaces Crystal Growth and Design 13 1915-1925, 2013
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Christenson HK Two-step crystal nucleation via capillary condensation CrystEngComm 15 2030-2039, 2013
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Wang Y-W, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Confinement Leads to Control over Calcium Sulfate Polymorph Advanced Functional Materials 10 -, 2013
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Kovács T, Christenson HK A two-step mechanism for crystal nucleation without supersaturation Faraday Discussions 159 123-138, 2012
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Kovacs T, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Crystal Nucleation without Supersaturation JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS 3 1602-1606, 2012

Wang YW, Kim YY, Stephens CJ, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK In situ study of the precipitation and crystallization of amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) Crystal Growth and Design 12 1212-1217, 2012
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Wang Y-W, Kim Y-Y, Stephens CJ, Meldrum FC, Stephens CJ, Christenson HK In situ study of the precipitation and crystallization of amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) Crystal Growth and Design 12 1212-1217, 2012
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Holbrough JL, Campbell JM, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Topographical Control of Crystal Nucleation CRYSTAL GROWTH&DESIGN 12 750-755, 2012

Wang Y-W, Kim Y-Y, Christenson HK, Meldrum FC A new precipitation pathway for calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) via amorphous and hemihydrate intermediates. Chem Commun (Camb) 48 504-506, 2012
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Kim Y-Y, Hetherington NBJ, Noel EH, Kröger R, Charnock JM, Christenson HK, Meldrum FC Capillarity creates single-crystal calcite nanowires from amorphous calcium carbonate. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 50 12572-12577, 2011
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Stephens CJ, Kim Y-Y, Evans SD, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Early stages of crystallization of calcium carbonate revealed in picoliter droplets. J Am Chem Soc 133 5210-5213, 2011
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Santos S, Barcons V, Christenson HK, Font J, Thomson NH The intrinsic resolution limit in the atomic force microscope: implications for heights of nano-scale features. PLoS One 6 e23821-, 2011
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Murray BJ, Broadley SL, Wilson TW, Bull SJ, Wills RH, Christenson HK, Murray EJ Kinetics of the homogeneous freezing of water. Phys Chem Chem Phys 12 10380-10387, 2010
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Luzar A, Christenson HK Faraday Discussions: Preface Faraday Discussions 146 9-12, 2010

Stephens CJ, Ladden SF, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Amorphous Calcium Carbonate is Stabilized in Confinement ADV FUNCT MATER 20 2108-2115, 2010

Stephens CJ, Mouhamad Y, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Epitaxy of Calcite on Mica CRYST GROWTH DES 10 734-738, 2010

Luzar A, Christenson HK Wetting Dynamics of Hydrophobic and Structured Surfaces Preface FARADAY DISCUSS 146 9-12, 2010

Nowak D, Christenson HK Capillary condensation of water between mica surfaces above and below zero-effect of surface ions. Langmuir 25 9908-9912, 2009
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Nowak D, Heuberger M, Zach M, Christenson HK Thermodynamic and kinetic supercooling of liquid in a wedge pore J CHEM PHYS 129 -, 2008

Balmer TE, Christenson HK, Spencer ND, Heuberger M The effect of surface ions on water adsorption to mica LANGMUIR 24 1566-1569, 2008

Christenson HK, Bowen RE, Carlton JA, Denne JRM, Lu Y Electrolytes that Show a Transition to Bubble Coalescence Inhibition at High Concentration J. Phys. Chem. C 112 794-796, 2008

Sheikh KH, Evans SD, Christenson HK Titration of ionizable monolayers by measurement of the electric double-layer force LANGMUIR 23 6893-6895, 2007

Bowers J, Zarbakhsh A, McLure IA, Webster JRP, Steitz R, Christenson HK Composition profile of a wetting film in a binary mixture J PHYS CHEM C 111 5568-5571, 2007

Sheikh KH, Christenson HK, Bushby RJ, Evans SD A model system to study the insertion of cholesterol into a phospholipid monolayer. J Phys Chem B 111 379-386, 2007
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Barber P, Asakawa T, Christenson HK What Determines the Size of Liquid Capillary Condensates Below the Bulk Melting Point? Journal of Physical Chemistry: B 111 2141-2148, 2007

Christenson HK Phase behavior in confinement studied with a surface force apparatus J DISPER SCI TECHNOL 27 617-624, 2006

Kirkness JP, Christenson HK, Wheatley JR, Amis TC Application of the 'pull-off' force method for measurement of surface tension of upper airway mucosal lining liquid PHYSIOL MEAS 26 677-688, 2005

Bowers J, Zarbakhsh A, Christenson HK, McLure IA, Webster JRP, Steitz R Neutron reflectivity studies of critical adsorption: Behavior of the surface scaling function PHYS REV E 72 -, 2005

Bowers J, Zarbakhsh A, Querol A, Christenson HK, McLure IA, Cubitt R Adsorption from alkane plus perfluoroalkane mixtures at fluorophobic and fluorophilic surfaces. II. Crossover from critical adsorption to complete wetting J CHEM PHYS 121 9058-9065, 2004

Bowers J, Zarbakhsh A, Christenson HK, McLure IA, Cubitt R Adsorption from alkane+perfluoroalkane mixtures at fluorophobic and fluorophilic surfaces. I. Nature of the noncritical adsorption profiles Journal of Chemical Physics 119 11917-11925, 2003

Kim S, Christenson HK, Curry JE n-octadecyltriethoxysilane monolayer coated surfaces in humid atmospheres: Influence of capillary condensation on surface deformation and adhesion J PHYS CHEM B 107 3774-3781, 2003

Warren P, Cates ME, Christenson HK, Higgins JS, Hinch EJ, Marrucci G, Frith WJ, McLeish TCB, Jones RB, Magerle R Phase separation in binary fluid mixtures with continuously ramped temperature - Discussion PHILOS T ROY SOC A 361 804-807, 2003

Gates ME, Vollmer J, Wagner A, Vollmer D, Warren P, Christenson HK, Higgins JS, Hinch EJ, Marrucci G, Frith WJ, McLeish TCB, Jones RB, Magerle R Phase separation in binary fluid mixtures with continuously ramped temperature Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 361 793-807, 2003
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Kirkness JP, Christenson HK, Garlick SR, Parikh R, Kairaitis K, Wheatley JR, Amis TC Decreased surface tension of upper airway mucosal lining liquid increases upper airway patency in anaesthetised rabbits Journal of Physiology 547 603-611, 2003

Kohonen MM, Meldrum FC, Christenson HK Particles on melt-cut mica sheets are platinum Langmuir 19 975-976, 2003

Kohonen MM, Christenson HK Capillary condensation from vapors of n-hexane/perfluoro-n-hexane mixtures J PHYS CHEM B 106 6685-6695, 2002

Kim S, Christenson HK, Curry JE The effect of humidity on the stability of an octadecyltriethoxysilane monolayer self-assembled on untreated and plasma-treated mica LANGMUIR 18 2125-2129, 2002

Kohonen MM, Christenson HK Adsorption from pure and mixed vapours of n-hexane and n-perfluorohexane EUR PHYS J E 6 315-323, 2001

Christenson HK, Claesson PM Direct measurements of the force between hydrophobic surfaces in water ADV COLLOID INTERFAC 91 391-436, 2001

Maeda N, Kohonen MM, Christenson HK Phase behavior of long-chain n-alkanes at one and between two mica surfaces J PHYS CHEM B 105 5906-5913, 2001

Qiao Y, Christenson HK Direct observation of capillary condensation of a solid PHYS REV LETT 86 3807-3810, 2001

Christenson HK Confinement effects on freezing and melting J PHYS-CONDENS MAT 13 R95-R133, 2001

Kirkness JP, Amis TC, Wheatley JR, Christenson HK Determining the surface tension of microliter amounts of liquid J COLLOID INTERF SCI 232 408-409, 2000

Maeda N, Kohonen MM, Christenson HK A Phase Transition of n-Alkane Layers Adsorbed on Mica Physical Review E (Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics) 61 7239-7242, 2000

Kohonen MM, Maeda N, Christenson HK The Kinetics of Capillary Condensation in a Nanoscale Pore Physical Review Letters 82 4667-4670, 1999

Qiao Y, Christenson HK Triple-Point Wetting and Liquid Condensation in a Slit-Pore Physical Review Letters 83 1371-1374, 1999