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Professor Richard Compton

Professor Richard Compton

Tutorial Fellow in Chemistry

Teaching Interests

Richard Compton lectures in the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory. He is the Physical Chemistry editor of the Oxford Chemistry Primers series which comprises about 100 short texts covering a wide range of essential topics in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. He has authored several textbooks - "Electrode Potentials", "Foundations of Physical Chemistry" and "Foundations of Physical Chemistry: Worked examples" (all Oxford University Press). The second of these (written with Professor Alison Rodger, of Warwick University and Dr Charles Lawrence, a schoolmaster) is aimed at the school/university interface whilst the third was co-authored by two St John's undergraduates (Jay Wadhawan and Nathan Lawrence). Professor Compton has published the book 'Understanding Voltammetry' (2nd Edition, Imperial College Press, 2011)  along with the companion volume 'Understanding Voltammetry: Problems and solutions' (ICP, 2012). A further volume - 'Understanding Voltammetry: Simulation of Electrode Processes' was published in 2014. Professor Compton provides the Physical Chemistry tuition for St John's.

Research Interests

  • Fundamental Electrochemistry including Nanoelectrochemistry
  • Chemical Sensors
  • Electroanalysis
  • Room temperature Ionic Liquids

Understanding electrochemical processes is key to developing energy storage and conversion devices (fuel cells, solar cells, batteries) as well as being at the heart of much of modern biology and nanotechnology. At the same time electrochemical sensors provide sensitive, selective, clean and easy to use approaches to the detection and monitoring of many important chemical species (gas sensors, blood sugar, pH).
The Compton Group has interests ranging from fundamental electrochemistry (theory of electron transfer and of mass transport) to making chemical sensors; the companies Senova and OxTox have spun out of Group research in recent years. Current work also focuses on electrochemistry in nanoelectrodes, room temperature ionic liquids and in bioelectrochemistry. We adopt a bottom-up approach developing new methods to investigate the kinetics and mechanisms of interfacial reactions.

The group has a strong history in producing outstanding Part II and D.Phil. theses. The work of the group is at the forefront of international research and our students all contribute to this from day one. We have a wide range of interests within dedicated experimental and theoretical subgroups. The Compton Group website allows you to explore some of the research, the publications (and books) and to see the scientists in, and collaborating with, the Group.

Other Information

In November 2006, Professor Compton launched the company 'OxTox Limited' which is aimed at developing electrochemical sensors for roadside drug testing. Another company ‘Senova Systems Inc’, based in San Francisco, is aimed at developing new pH sensors especially for the biopharma industry. The company recently launched the first ever calibration free pH meter which won the Best New Product Prize at the prestiguous PittCon meeting in March 2013.

Another Compton Group sensor uses a nanoelectrochemical approach to detect the heat of heat peppers. This has been licensed to the Singapore company BioX who will sell the sensors for use in the food processing and spice industries. These sensors are also used for various outreach project with schools including Shelley College, Huddersfield and Cheltenham Ladies College (see

Richard Compton also has interest in the history of electrochemistry. The book “A G Stromberg: First Class Scientist, Second Class Citizen. Letters from the GULAG and a History of Electroanalysis in the USSR” written with A S Kabakaev, M J Stawpert, G G Wildgoose and E A Zakharova, (Imperial College Press) was published in early 2011.

Richard Compton is Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professor at the Institute of Physical Sciences, Hefei, Anhou, PRC, a lifelong Professor at Sichuan University and holds Honorary Doctorates from Kharkov University of Radioelectronics (Ukraine) and from the Estonian Agricultural University. He has a h-index of 79 (Web of science September 2014), has published over 1250 papers and is a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher.

Contact details

St John's College
St. Giles, Oxford OX1 3JP
Work Tel: 01865 277300
Fax: 01865 277435
University of Oxford