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Carl Brown

Carl Brown

Professor and Head of Department

School of Science & Technology

Staff Group(s)
Physics and Mathematics


Carl Brown is a Professor of Physics in the School of Science of Technology. He leads experimental research in Liquid Crystal flow phenomena, Wetting/De-wetting, Dielectrophoresis, Microfluidics, Liquid-Solid interactions, Evaporation and Complex Fluids. He has published 75 peer-reviewed papers, and has attracted grant funding as PI or Co-I of £3.1M, including from industry, and from the EU, UK MoD, and the UK EPSRC. He has been the Director of Studies for 11 PhD researchers whilst at Nottingham Trent and Oxford Universities (10 successful completions, 1 ongoing). His teaching contributions are made to Bachelors and Masters projects in Physics, on Optics on the second year Optics and Semiconductors module (PHYS22224), on Polarising Optical Microscopy on the M-level Imaging Matter module (PHYS42534), and on microfluidics methods on the M-level Current Topics in Physics module (PHYS42112).

Career overview

Nottingham Trent University, School of Science and Technology
Professor of Physics (2009-present), previously Reader in Physics (2006-09), Senior Lecturer (2003-06)
Acting Associate Dean for Research for School of Science and Technology (2020)
Head of the Nottingham Trent University-wide Doctoral School (2017-2019)
Chair of the University’s Materials Strategic Research Theme Steering Group (2014-2017)
Engineering Research Unit Coordinator, REF2014 Unit of Assessment B15 (now B12) (2012-2017)
Admissions Tutor for Physics and Astronomy courses (2005-2010)

Oxford University
Departmental Lecturer in Optoelectronics (1999-2002), Department of Engineering Science
Concurrent College Lectureships in Engineering: Brasenose (2000/01-2001/02) and Jesus (1999/2000)

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, Great Malvern, Worcs., U.K.
Senior Scientific Officer (1996-1998), previously Higher Scientific Officer (1993-1996)

Research areas

Professor Brown is a member of the Soft Matter Physics Research Group,

Current research is being carried out in the following areas:

  • Nematic Liquid Crystal Flow - During Poiseuille flow of a layer of nematic liquid crystal, a number of factors determine the spatially dependent orientation of the nematic director and the velocity profile. These include the relative strength and direction of surface anchoring, the flow rate, the relative magnitude of the anisotropic viscous and elastic forces, and the strength of an externally applied electric field orthogonal to the flow direction. The study of such electro-rheological effects in nematics has previously been limited to thick layers, for which elastic forces can be neglected, and to specific geometries and flow switching phenomena in thinner layers. We are performing experiments, alongside theoretical analysis and simulations by our collaborators, to explore the complex nature of surface-flow-field-director coupling for a thin homogenous nematic layer. The work is funded by the EPSRC and is a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University, Strathclyde university, and Glasgow University (grants EP/T012986/1 and EP/T012501/1,
  • Dynamic Dewetting - When a small droplet is deposited on a smooth surface it spreads across the surface until it reaches an equilibrium droplet shape or until it becomes a film. However, often a process starts with a liquid film, rather than a droplet, and a change of the environment or some other parameter, can initiate a process of de-wetting, i.e. the recoil or break up of a film on a surface into one or more droplets. The initial film state and its de-wetting from a surface are important for industrial processes, such as spin coated films used in lithography, painting/coatings, printing, heat exchangers, etc. In this project, we are using electric-field induced film formation to study non-naturally occurring film morphologies and their de-wetting dynamics into single droplets in a manner which has never previously been possible. We are investigating liquid-in-liquid systems with order of magnitude contrasts in viscosity ratios, thereby elucidating the fundamentals of the fluid mechanics of contact line motion. We are also investigating the combination of individually programmable film morphologies into fully programmable arrays of wetting patterns. The work is funded by the EPSRC and is a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University and Edinburgh University (grants EP/R042276/1 and EP/R036837/1,

Recent research areas:

  • Responsible Research and Innovation - Professor Brown was a co-Investigator on the exciting NUCLEUS Horizon 2020 project – New Understanding of Communication, Learning and Engagement in Universities and Scientific Institutions ( NUCLEUS is bringing Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to life in universities and research institutions across Europe, and far beyond through our partners in China and South Africa. RRI seeks to develop a shared interest and mutual responsibility between stakeholders and researchers, driving inclusive and influential dialogue about how research is conducted, applied, and creates impact for society.

Opportunities arise to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil / PhD in the areas identified above. Further information may be obtained on the NTU Research Degrees website

External activity

  • Member of the Society for Information Display UK and Eire Chapter Committee (2019-present)
  • Treasurer of the Dielectrics and Electrostatics Group, Institute of Physics (2019-present)
  • Member of an EPSRC Prioritisation Panels (2021 and 2022)
  • Co-leader (with Nigel Mottram lead, and Stephen Wilson co-leader) of the EPSRC-funded UKFN SIG on Fluid Dynamics of Liquid Crystalline Materials, (2017-2020)
  • Member of Southampton Solent University Research Degrees Committee (2017)
  • British Liquid Crystal Society, Treasurer and Charity Trustee (2012-2017)

Sponsors and collaborators

Current and recent research is being carried out in collaboration with, or funded by:

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • European Commission Horizon 2020
  • Merck Chemicals Ltd (Southampton UK, Darmstadt Germany)
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Kodak European Research Ltd
  • QinetiQ (Malvern)

Research funding has included:

  • Control of free-surface flow morphologies in anisotropic liquids, EPSRC EP/T012986/1 (2020 to 2023)
  • Dynamic Dewetting: Designing and Breaking Novel Morphologies of Liquid Films, EPSRC EP/R042276/1 (2018 to 2022)
  • CDE39296, MoD/DSTL CDE scheme (2015 to 2016)
  • NUCLEUS Responsible Research & Innovation, European Commission (2015 to 2019)
  • Dielectrowetting: Oleo- and hydro- philicity control, EPSRC Grant EP/K015192/1 (2013 to 2016)
  • Anisotropic Liquid Dielectrophoresis, EPSRC Grant EP/J009865/1 (2012 to 2015)
  • Exploiting the solid-liquid interface, EPSRC EP/E063489/1 (2007 to 2012)
  • Sidewall control of multistate switchable photonic devices, EPSRC EP/F014988/1 (2007 to 2010)
  • Spatial light modulator based on electrowetting technology, Kodak (2005 to 2009)
  • A novel bistable liquid crystal device for portable display device applications, Scottish Enterprise (2005 to 2007)
  • Flexoelectricity and ordering in nematic liquid crystals, EPSRC GR/S90621/01 (2004 to 2007)
  • Bistable nematic liquid crystal displays, EPSRC GR/R17423/01 (2001 to 2005)
  • Development and numerical modelling of optically addressed spatial light modulator technology, QinetiQ


Selected publications

  • “Weak-anchoring effects in a thin pinned ridge of nematic liquid crystal”, J.R.L. Cousins, A.S. Bhadwal, L.T. Corson, B.R. Duffy, I.C. Sage, C.V. Brown, N.J. Mottram, and S.K. Wilson. Physical Review E 107, 034702 (2023)
  • “Dielectrowetting on curved surfaces”, É. Ruiz-Gutiérrez, P.J. Baker, A.M.J. Edwards,  M.I. Newton, I.C. Sage, R. Ledesma-Aguilar, G. McHale, and C.V. Brown. Applied Physics Letters 120(19), 191601 (2022)
  • “Frequency-controlled dielectrophoresis-driven wetting of nematic liquid crystals”, C.V. Brown, A.S. Bhadwal, A.M.J. Edwards, I.C. Sage, A. Saxena, N.J. Mottram. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 55(28), 285302 (2022)
  • “Interferometric Measurement of Co-Operative Evaporation in 2-D droplet Arrays”, A.M.J. Edwards, J. Cater, J.J. Kilbride, P. Le Minter, C.V. Brown, D.J. Fairhurst and F.F. Ouali. Applied Physics Letters 119(15), 151601-151605 (2021)
  • “Static and Dynamic Optical Analysis of Micro Wrinkle Formation on a Liquid Surface”, A. Saxena, C. Tsakonas, D. Chappell, C.S. Cheung, A.M.J. Edwards, H. Liang, I.C. Sage and C.V. Brown. Micromachines 12(12), 1583 (2021)
  • “Lattice Boltzmann simulations of multiphase dielectric fluids”,  É. Ruiz‑Gutiérrez, A.M.J. Edwards, G. McHale, M.I. Newton, G.G. Wells, C.V. Brown, and R. Ledesma‑Aguilar. Langmuir 37(24), 7328-7340 (2021)
  • "Controlling the breakup of toroidal liquid films on solid surfaces", Andrew M. J. Edwards, Élfego Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Michael I. Newton, Glen McHale, Gary G. Wells, Rodrigo Ledesma-Aguilar & Carl V. Brown, Scientific Reports, 11, 8120 (2021)
  • “Bubble Control, Levitation, and Manipulation Using Dielectrophoresis”, C.V. Brown, A.M.J. Edwards, A. Roberts, M.I. Newton, I.C. Sage, R. Ledesma-Aguilar, G. McHale, Advanced Materials Interfaces, 8, 2001204 (2021) Invited paper for Special Issue on “Wetting-Empowered Surface Functions for Engineering Applications”
  • “Electrostatic control of dewetting dynamics”, A.M.J. Edwards,  R. Ledesma-Aguilar,  M.I. Newton,  C.V. Brown, and G. McHale, Applied Physics Letters, 116, 253703–253706 (2020)
  • “Electrically controlled topological micro cargo transportation”, A. S. Bhadwal, N. J. Mottram, A. Saxena, I. C. Sage, and C. V. Brown, Soft Matter, 16, 2961–2970 (2020) Featured as Hot article of the month on RSC Soft Matter Blog.
  • “A viscous switch for dewetting: When more repellent is slower”, A. M. J. Edwards, R. Ledesma-Aguilar, M. I. Newton, C. V. Brown, G. McHale, Communications Physics 3, article 21 (2020)
  • “Dielectrowetting: The past, present and future”, A.M.J. Edwards, C.V. Brown, M.I. Newton and G. McHale, Current Opinion in Colloid and Interface Science 36, pp 28–36 (2018)
  • “Electric field induced reversible spreading of droplets into films on lubricant impregnated surfaces”, Z. Brabcova, G. McHale, G.G.Wells, C.V. Brown, M.I. Newton, Applied Physics Letters 110, 121603 (2017)
  • “Not spreading in reverse: the dewetting of a liquid film into a single drop”, A.M.J. Edwards, R. Ledesma-Aguilar, M.I. Newton, C.V. Brown, G. McHale, Science Advances 2(9), e1600183 (2016)
  • “Dielectrophoresis-Driven Spreading of Immersed Liquid Droplets”, C.V. Brown, G. McHale, and C.L. Trabi, Langmuir Vol. 31(3), pp 1011–1016 (2015)
  • “Voltage-induced spreading and superspreading of liquids”, G. McHale, C.V. Brown, and N. Sampara, Nature Communications 4, article 1605 (2013)
  • “Dielectrowetting Driven Spreading of Droplets”, G. McHale, C.V. Brown, M. I. Newton, G. G. Wells, and N. Sampara, Physical Review Letters, Vol. 107, pp 186101-186104 Oct (2011)
  • “Voltage-programmable liquid optical interface”, C.V. Brown, G.G. Wells, M.I. Newton and G. McHale, Nature Photonics, Vol 3(7), pp 403-405 July (2009)

See all of Carl Brown's publications...

Press expertise

3D TV technology; Ebook reader displays technology; Electronic paper technology; LCD TV technology; Wetting; Dewetting; Dielectrophoresis; Microfluidics; Lab-on-a-chip

“When droplets misbehave”

“From Carrot Juice to TVs: the story of liquid crystals”