Professor Richard Ambrosi

photoSpace Instrumentation & Space Nuclear Power Systems

BSc, BSc (Hons), PhD


Tel: +44 (0)116 223 1812


(Anti-spam measures: please remove the "Q" from this email address)

Office: Room 201C, Space Research Centre, Michael Atiyah Building

Office hours: Students should email to arrange meetings

Personal details

BSc, BSc (Hons), PhD

I obtained my PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg South Africa. After working on the development of fast neutron resonance radiography imaging systems using radiofrequency quadrupole accelerator based neutron sources, I moved to Leicester to work on the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Observatory X-ray Telescope as CCD calibration scientist. Between 2003 and 2005 I worked on the effects of radiation and dust on detectors, the associated impact on ESA's GAIA mission and development of CCDs for next generation X-ray observatories. In 2006 I became the UK Technical Lead for the ExoMars X-ray Diffraction instrument MARS-XRD and was responsible for the development of the X-ray focal plane for the MARS-XRD instrument. Since 2008 I have been leading the development of radioisotope thermoelectric generators, heater units and novel radioisotope containment systems for space nuclear power applications. I am also the Course Director for the MSc in Space Exploration Systems offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Neutron imaging instruments based on amorphous silicon/microchannel plate detectors as well as CCD-scintillator coupled systems are still part of my portfolio of research projects.


Joint research programmes and close links with the space and nuclear industries in the UK. Lean LaunchPad® Programme coordinator as part of Skills Electives for undergraduate students which focuses on evidence based entrepreneurship as a methodology for creating new startups.

Professional Activities

Visiting Scholar, University of Dayton , Ohio, USA.

Chair of UK Space Agency's Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Member of UK Space Agency's Science Programme Advisory Committee (SPAC)

Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer Mission (JUICE), Member of UK Space Agency's Programme Management Board.

Universities Space Research Association Council of Institutions Representative for Leicester.

Co-chair of the NEREUS Working Group on Technologies from Space Exploration.

Membership of Professional Bodies

Associate Member of the Association for Project Management

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Member of the International Society for Neutron Radiology


Office hours: Students should email to arrange meetings

My teaching and administrative duties in the Department of Physics and Astronomy


Selected publications


Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M., et al., (2017), “Sintering-trials of analogues of americium oxides for radioisotope power systems” Journal Of Nuclear Materials, 491, 18-30.doi: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2017.04.028

Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M., et al., (2017), “Cerium neodymium oxide solid solution synthesis as a potential analogue for substoichiometric AmO2 for radioisotope power systems”,  Journal Of Nuclear Materials, 486, 308-322. doi: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2017.01.011

B. Sanchez-Cano, B. E. S. Hall, M. Lester, M. L. Mays, O. Witasse, R. Ambrosi, et al., (2017) “Mars plasma system response to solar wind disturbances during solar minimum”, Journal of Geophysical Research, 122 (6) 6611-6634, DOI: 10.1002/2016JA023587.

Whiting, C. E., Knachel, H., Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M. (2017), “Validating a model to predict the chemistry of the fuel used in radioisotope power systems”, IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings. doi:10.1109/AERO.2017.7943635


Williams, HR; Ning, H.; Reece, MJ; Ambrosi, RM; et al., 2013, ‘Metal matrix composite fuel for space radioisotope energy sources’, Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol. 433, issues 1-3, pp. 116-123. (doi:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2012.09.030)

Williams HR, Ambrosi RM, Bannister NP, Samara-Ratna P, Sykes J. 2012. 'A conceptual spacecraft Radioisotope Thermoelectric and Heating Unit (RTHU)'. International Journal of Energy Research, vol.36, pp. 1192-1200. (doi:10.1002/er.1864)

Williams, HR; Bridges, JC; Ambrosi, RM; et al., 2011, ‘Mars reconnaissance lander: Vehicle and mission design, Planetary and Space Science’, vol. 59, issue 13, pp. 1621-1631. (doi:10.1016/j.pss.2011.07.011)

Williams, HR; Ambrosi, RM; Bannister, NP; 2011, ‘A Mars hopping vehicle propelled by a radioisotope thermal rocket: thermofluid design and materials selection’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, vol. 467, issue 2129, pp. 1290-1309. (doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0438)

Skidmore, MS; Ambrosi, RM; 2010, ‘Verification of a Monte-Carlo planetary surface radiation environment model using gamma-ray data from Lunar Prospector and 2001 Mars Odyssey’, Nuclear Instruments and Methods A, vol. 612, issue 2, pp. 296-302. (

Skidmore, MS; Ambrosi, RM; et al.; 2009, 'Prompt gamma-ray activation analysis of Martian analogues at the FRM II neutron reactor and the verification of a Monte Carlo planetary radiation environment model', Nuclear Instruments and Methods A, vol. 607, issue 2, pp. 421-431. (

O’Brien, RC; Ambrosi, RM; et al.; 2009, 'Spark plasma sintering of simulated radioisotope materials within tungsten cermets', Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol. 393, issue 1, pp. 108-113. (

O’Brien, RC; Ambrosi, RM; et al.; 2008, 'Safe radioisotope thermoelectric generators and heat sources for space applications', Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol. 377, issue 3, pp. 506-521. (


My research interests include the development of instrumentation and detector systems for gamma ray, X-ray, neutron detection and spectroscopy for planetary science and terrestrial applications. Exploiting the interaction of high-energy cosmic ray and solar radiation with planetary surfaces for planetary science is of particular interest as is the impact of the space environment on the performance of detector systems. Recently I have been leading the development of space nuclear power systems and in particular radioisotope thermoelectric generators, heater units and novel radioisotope containment systems. I have a specific interest in the lifecycle of research projects from concept to deployment.

Share this page:

Contact Details

Tel.: +44 (0)116 252 3506
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 2770

Department of Physics & Astronomy,
University of Leicester,
University Road,
Leicester, LE1 7RH,
United Kingdom.


For current students and general enquiries within UoL:

For Postgraduate Research enquiries:

For general enquiries outside UoL:

Student complaints procedure


AccessAble logo

The University of Leicester is committed to equal access to our facilities. DisabledGo has a detailed accessibility guide for the Physics and Astronomy Building.