Contact MaryProf Mary RyanProfessor of Materials Science & Nanotechnology

What if a material could last forever?

Without repair, many of the materials that we take for granted today ultimately degrade. Rusting steel threatens our infrastructure, contaminates water systems and costs the global economy trillions of dollars per year. Re-engineering materials to resist degradation starts with better understanding of chemical and physical processes operating at the nanoscale level.

Developments in scanning microscopy and modelling promise protective strategies that extend the life of well-used materials such as iron and steel, and even smart materials that can self-heal. As understanding of nanoscale processes continues to develop, it will even be possible to engineer materials with entirely new functional properties, such as heat-scavenging. A rust-free future is just the start...

I'm curious about..."whether you could tune the properties of a material to precisely engineer its lifespan"Mary Ryan


Mary Ryan joined Imperial College in 1998. She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester before spending three years at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, first as a postdoctoral researcher and then as staff scientist in the Materials Division. In 2015, Mary was appointed as the new Shell / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, focussing on new methods to manage and protect equipment against corrosion.


Mary’s research seeks to understand the interactions of materials in different real-world environments at the nanoscale level. By focusing on the small-scale processes that affect the properties and lifespan of materials, her work aims to make industrial processes safer, more predictable, and more efficient.

Her work explores:

  • Mechanisms of corrosion
  • New protective materials such as smart antimicrobial coatings
  • Novel materials with thermal management capabilities

Foresight and futures work

London Diplomatic Science Club
World Economic Forum Industry Strategy Meeting 2015
2036: Tech Foresight
Future of materials science, additive manufacturing and design
World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016
The Future of Materials: The Imperial College London IdeasLab

Profile Credits

Kit Huckvale, Pete Papathanasiou