Professor Allan Walton qualified with a BSc in Materials Science at the University of Birmingham in 1997. He went on to complete a PhD on the corrosion protection of Neodymium Iron Boron Magnets (qualified 2002) where he helped develop a zinc alloy coating process called Low Pressure Pack Sublimation, which was patented by the university. After becoming a research associate on corrosion studies for NdFeB permanent magnets, he was employed as a research fellow studying solid state hydrogen storage materials at the University of Birmingham.
Walton built and managed the hydrogen laboratories within Metallurgy and Materials, installing over 30 pieces of equipment, much of which is bespoke. The hydrogen labs are now one of the leading facilities for the synthesis and characterisation of hydrogen storage materials in the UK and are known as a centre of excellence worldwide. He has investigated a large range of potential hydrogen storage materials, including carbon nanotubes, activated carbons, zeolites, metal organic frameworks, porous polymers, metal hydrides, magnesium-based materials (including melt spun material and high velocity ball milled) and complex hydrides.
In 2009, Walton began working as a Senior Science City Research Fellow. His research was focused in two main areas – solid state hydrogen storage materials and permanent magnetic materials. He was heavily involved in research into recycling of rare earth materials. This research involves the use of hydrogen to extract rare earth magnets from scrap devices and re-processing of that material into new magnets.
In 2011, he took over as the head of the Magnetic Materials Research Group. The MMG now has over £2.4 million in multi-disciplinary research projects on sustainable manufacturing routes for permanent magnets. In recent years, Allan has been tackling the shortages in the supply of rare earth materials; developing new lean processing routes for permanent magnets and novel recycling processes which have led to three international patent applications.
Professor Walton works closely with both the Hydrogen Materials Group run by Professor David Book at the University of Birmingham and the minerals processing group headed by Professor Neil Rowson.