Dave Fairhurst

David Fairhurst

Principal Lecturer

School of Science & Technology

Staff Group(s)
Physics and Mathematics


Dr David Fairhurst is the UCAS Admissions Tutor for all undergraduate physics courses. He is Module Leader for:

  • Instrumentation and Programming (PHYS12721)
  • Introduction to Laboratory Software (PHYS125113)
  • Advanced Modern Physics (PHYS32162)
  • Advanced Experimental Techniques (PHYS32221)

He also teaches on the following modules:

  • Materials and Security Imaging (PHYS42532)
  • Project Phys/Ast/Inst (PHYS33611)

Career overview

Dr Fairhurst was previously a Post-doctoral Researcher at The University of Edinburgh and Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. He was awarded his PhD in Physics from The University of Edinburgh and his BSc in Physics from Imperial College, London.

He has also worked for the educational software company Crocodile Clips writing a range of online science educational materials.

Research areas

Dr Fairhurst is interested in complex fluids and the behaviour of droplets on surfaces.

He has supervised three PhD students to completion:

  • David Willmer, Non-equilibrium polymeric complex fluids
  • Kyle Baldwin, Novel pillar formation in evaporating poly(ethylene oxide) droplets
  • Amgad Alrwaili, Measuring liquid pressure using bubbles as MRI contrast agents

He currently supervises one Research Fellow and co-supervises a further four PhD students:

  • Christopher Hamlett, Foam stability
  • Yohanna Msambwa, Ring stain deposits from drying droplets
  • Joe Brennan, Reduced drag over structured super-hydrophobic surfaces
  • Emmanouil Papastavrou, Low temperature deposition modelling of hierarchical composite structures for applications in hard tissue engineering
  • Edwin Abdurakman, Design and testing of novel microsphere-based contrast agents exploiting susceptibility anisotropy for magnetic resonance imaging.

Research interests include:

  • Evaporation of liquid droplets – Although a seemingly trivial problem there are many competing physical process taking place when a droplet of liquid is left to dry on a solid surface: evaporation and phase change, heat flow, convection currents, molecular diffusion, phase change, capillary flow, Marangoni flow to name a few. Understanding the evaporation process has implications for heat flow applications. Furthermore, if the droplet contains non-volatile components, these will eventually be deposited on the surface in various patterns, such as the commonplace coffee stain in which the dark coffee grains are predominantly deposited around the edge, the centre of the droplet being much paler in colour. Understanding and controlling the final deposit is important for many industries from printing to crop spraying. Dr Fairhurst's group were the first to discover that poly(ethylene oxide) deposits preferentially in the centre of the droplets, forming a pillar which can be taller than the initial droplet (for example see videos).
  • Complex fluids – Most everyday liquids contain a range of various components, which can interact in complex ways. Many foods and drinks contain micron-sized colloidal particles; detergents and cleaning products contain surfactant molecules which have one water-loving end and the other oil-loving end; long chain polymer molecules are added to many products to give particular material and flow properties. The team's research in this broad field ranges from the phase behaviour of hard sphere colloidal suspensions, in particular the effect of polydispersity; the non-equilibrium behaviour and rheology of surfactant solutions; foam stability using novel molecules.

Opportunities to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil/PhD exist and further information may be obtained from the NTU Graduate School.

External activity

Dr Fairhurst is:

Sponsors and collaborators

Current and recent research is being conducted with the collaboration, funding and / or support of:

University collaborations include Heinrich-Heine (Dusseldorf), Leeds, Edinburgh and the University of Nottingham.

Recent research funding has included:

  • Improved tablet coatings for continuous processing, DJ Fairhurst, Technology Strategy Board, (2013), £42,750
  • Novel molecules to stabilise foams, DJ Fairhurst and J Wallis (2012 to 2013), £69,000
  • Proteins and other naturally occurring substances as next generation foams, DJ Fairhurst and J Wallis, £85,000
  • Properties of colloids with simple and complex fluids, C Brown, DJ Fairhurst and K Baldwin, NTU Vice-Chancellors Bursary (2009 to 2012), £63,060
  • Dynamics and patterns in soap films, DJ Fairhurst and C Beal, The Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary (2007), £1,360
  • Force measurements in complex fluids, DJ Fairhurst, D Willmer and S Puntambekar, EPSRC Collaborative Award in Science and Engineering (CASE) for New Academics (CNA) (2006 to 2009), £85,000
  • Microscopic manipulations and force measurements in non-equilibrium complex fluids using optical tweezers, DJ Fairhurst, The Nuffield Foundation (2005 to 2007), £5,000
  • Microscopic study of non-equilibrium complex fluids, DJ Fairhurst, The Royal Society (2005 to 2006), £15,000


Imaging internal flows in a drying sessile polymer dispersion drop using Spectral Radar Optical Coherence Tomography (SR-OCT). Manukyan S, Sauer HM, Roisman IV, Baldwin KA, Fairhurst DJ, Liang H, Venzmer J and Tropea C, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2013, 395, 287-29

Monolith formation and ring-stain suppression in low-pressure evaporation of poly(ethylene oxide) droplets. Baldwin KA, Roest S, Fairhurst DJ, Sefiane K and Shanahan M, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 2012, 695, 321-329

Drying and deposition of poly(ethylene oxide) droplets determined by Péclet number. Baldwin KA, Granjard M, Willmer D, Sefiane K and Fairhurst DJ, Soft Matter, 2011, 7, 7819-7826

Three-dimensional structure and growth of myelins. Reissig L, Fairhurst DJ, Leng J, Cates ME, Mount AR and Egelhaaf SU, Langmuir, 2010, 26 (19), 15192-15199

Robust spatially resolved pressure measurements using MRI with novel buoyant advection-free preparations of stable microbubbles in polysaccharide gels. Morris RH, Bencsik M, Nestle N, Galvosas P, Fairhurst DJ, Vangala A, Perrie Y and McHale G, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, 2008, 193 (2), 159-167

Swelling and shrinking kinetics of a lamellar gel phase. Fairhurst DJ, Baker ME, Shaw N and Egelhaaf SU, Applied Physics Letters, 2008, 92 (17), 174105-1-174105-3

Colloid-polymer mixtures at triple coexistence: kinetic maps from free-energy landscapes. Poon WCK, Renth F, Evans RML, Fairhurst DJ, Cates ME and Pusey PN, Physical Review Letters, 1999, 83 (6), 1239-1242

Universal law of fractionation for slightly polydisperse systems. Evans RML, Fairhurst DJ and Poon WCK, Physical Review Letters, 1998, 81 (6), 1326-1329.

See all of David Fairhurst's publications...

Press expertise

  • Fluids and liquids
  • The behaviour of droplets on surfaces
  • Evaporation of liquid droplets
  • 'Kitchen' physics
  • Weather physics - including the science of rainbows
  • Complex fluids: polymers, surfactants (including foams and bubbles), colloidal suspensions
  • Rheology (the flow of liquids)