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Prof Glen McHale

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Applied & Materials Physics

Department: Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

EE Glenmchale Staffprofile 255To be part of a Faculty that helps students and staff to grow and fulfil their aspirations, to provide inspiration of what can be achieved in life, and to gain skills and knowledge relevant to the world around us is an absolute privilege.

Before I went to University I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be an engineer, a scientist or a mathematician, but eventually I became a bit of all of these.

At University I started by studying Physics and Electronics - a legacy of a hobby building radios - but my interest was grabbed by the strange ideas of quantum theory and relativity. I was able to transfer to Mathematical Physics in which I gained a first class degree from the University of Nottingham.

A few years later I completed a PhD in Applied Mathematics and started work as a Theoretical Physicist. I had always had a blind spot for languages and so I applied to The Royal Society for a European Fellowship to go to the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris so that I could immerse myself in the language and culture - when not working. In Paris, I was drawn into Computing - a subject then in its infancy - and so with a mixture of electronics, physics, maths and computing, I came back to the UK to Nottingham Trent as Lecturer in Applied Physics and Instrumentation.

As a lecturer I spent many happy years sitting alongside students in labs helping them to get experiments to work, or in chats between lectures discussing why one way of thinking about an idea might work, but another might not. Increasingly, my own research interests developed and I found myself working alongside biotechnologists, materials scientists, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, fluid dynamicists and many others.

I found that my own skills could add to their perspectives to help find solutions to their real problems - something all engineers do. Along the way I developed a multidisciplinary applied science and engineering group that became recognized as world-leading in understanding and manipulating how liquids interact with solids. I also became a Professor, Head of Subject, and Head of Research (Science & Technology) at Nottingham Trent before joining Northumbria in 2012 as Dean and then Executive Dean.

Public understanding website Nature's Raincoats

0191 227 3660


BSc (H), PhD, C.Phys., FInstP, FRSA, FHEA, SMIEEE

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Areas of research include the smart and advanced materials, static and dynamic wetting of surfaces (theory and experiment) and acoustic waves (fundamentals and sensor applications):

Superhydrophobic and Superwetting Surfaces: Lithography, electrodeposition and etching to sculpture surfaces at the nano- and micro-level is used to obtain extreme water repellency or imbibition beyond that which chemistry alone can deliver;

Liquid Optics: Liquid surfaces are shaped and droplets are controlled using electrostatic forces to create programmable diffraction gratings and lenses;

Dynamic Wetting: Video-microscopy is used to study the interaction and evolution of liquids on surfaces. These surfaces have different geometries (planar, fiber, etc) and can be smooth or patterned;

Acoustic Wave Sensors: High frequency vibrations of quartz crystal microbalances (QCMs) and surface acoustic wave devices (SAWs) are used to probe liquid properties, and the solid-liquid and solid-vapour interfaces with selectivity achieved via surface coatings.

Slippery and Lubricated Surfaces: Surfaces designed to reduce friction and allow highly mobile droplets using lubricant impregnated and liquid infused porous surface principles;

Professional Activity

- Leader UK Fluid Networks Special Interest Group on Smart and Bioinspired Surfaces (2016-2019)

- Member of REF2014 sub-panel UoA13 (2011-2014)

- EU COST Management Committees (UK Representative MP1106, 2012-2016; P21 2007-2011)

- Member of the EPSRC College of Referees (2010-Present, 2003-2005)

- Member of the Editorial Board for Advances in Colloid and Interface Science (2010-Present) 

- Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) International Review Team Member for the

- Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (Dublin City University, 2008)

- IEEE-FCS Technical Programme Committee (2006-2012)

- The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (Nature's Raincoats) (2009)

- Member of Scientific Board, Training Conference on Physics of Droplets (Capri, 2008)

- Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Maple Biosciences (Subsidiary of MedMira Incorp, Canada, 2006-2008)

- EU COST D19 Management Committee (UK Representative, 2006)

- International Organising Committee, Biosensors and Biomaterials (Tsukuba, Japan, 2005)

- Member of the Standing Conference of Physics Professors (2002-present)

- Committee Member of the IOP Physical Acoustics Group (organising body of the Anglo-French Physical Acoustics Conference AFPAC) (2001-2008)

Sponsors and Collaborators

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

- The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- The European Union COST Programme (EU COST MP1106 and P21)
- UK Sport
- Dstl
- The Royal Society
- The British Council

Externally funded University collaborations within the UK have included QUB, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea and Cambridge, and internationally with Toronto, Istanbul and Magdeburg.

I also jointly organise a Public Understanding of Science Exhibit and website Nature's Raincoats with colleagues at Nottingham Trent and Oxford Universities.

Current/Recent Projects

Research funding in the period in the period 2008-present includes:

1. Dynamic Dewetting: Designing and Breaking Novel Morphologies of Liquid Films, G. McHale, G.G. Wells and R. Ledesma-Aguilar, EPSRC EP/R036837/1 (2018-2021), £433k within a £827k programme (100% fEC value)

2. New Engineering Concepts from Phase Transitions: A Leidenfrost Engine, G. McHale, R. Ledesma-Aguilar and G.G. Wells, EPSRC EP/P005896/1 (2017-2020), £530k within a £1.1M programme (100% fEC value)

3. Thin Film Acoustic Wave Platform for Conformable and Mechanically Flexible Biosensors, R. Fu, G. McHale and S. Todryk, EPSRC EP/P018998/1 £430k within a £1.1M programme (100% fEC value)

4. Lubricating channel and tube flows - Fluid sheathing using textured walls, G. McHale and B.B. Xu, EPSRC EP/L026899/1 (2014-2018), £528k within a £938k programme (100% fEC value)

5. Dielectrowetting: Controlling oleo- and hydrohilicity and shaping liquid surfaces, G. McHale, EPSRC EP/K014803/1 (2013 to 2016), £350k within a £450k programme (100% fEC value)

6. Exploiting the solid-liquid interface, G. McHale, C. V. Brown and M. I. Newton, EPSRC Engineering Programme Platform Grant (2007 to 2013), £805k (100% fEC value)

7. Engineering of surfaces for drag reduction in water with validation using computational and experimental methods, G. McHale and M. I. Newton, EPSRC EP/G057265/1 (2009 to 2013), £430k within a £1M programme (100% fEC)

8. Particle based superhydrophobic surfaces: Lab models-to-field sample behaviour, G. McHale, M. I. Newton and N. J. Shirtcliffe, EPSRC EP/H000704/1 (2009 to 2013), £405k within a £506k programme (100% fEC)

9. Smart Materials - Designing for Functionality, G. McHale, W. Cranton, M. I. Newton, T. Dias and T. Fisher, EPSRC Cross Disciplinary Feasibility Account EP/I016414/1 (2010-2012), £253k (100% fEC).

10. Enhancing water sports performance, G. McHale, M. I. Newton, C. C. Perry and N. J. Shirtcliffe, EPSRC EP/E043097/1 (2007 to 2008), £138k (100% fEC)

11. An integrated single pass analysis chip for ionic liquids, G. McHale and M. I. Newton, EPSRC EP/D03826X/1 (2006 to 2009), £122k within a £554k programme

12. Spatial light modulator based on electrowetting technology, C. V. Brown, G. McHale and M. I. Newton, EPSRC (2005 to 2008), £79k

13. Drag reduction and slip at solid-liquid interfaces,G. McHale, C. C. Perry and M. I. Newton, EPSRC EP/D500826/1 (2005 to 2008), £205k

14. Next generation Love waves, G. McHale and M. I. Newton, EPSRC EP/C536630/1 (2005 to 2008), £182k

Competitively awarded HEFCE funding includes:

1. Midlands Physics Alliance Graduate School (MPAGS) Extension, Leicester, Nottingham Trent, Loughborough and Keele Universities, (2011-2012), M. Barstow, G. McHale, et al, £250,000

2. Centre for Effective Learning in Science (CELS), Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning. K. Moss, N. Macfarlane, G. McHale, et al. (2005-2009), £4,850,000

3. Science Research Investment Fund 2, G. McHale, Project leader for Biosensors, Imaging and Vision (2003-2005), £485,474.

Key Publications

1. Topological liquid diode, J. Li, X. Zhou, J. Li, L. Che, J. Yao, G. McHale, M.K. Chaudhury and Z. Wang, Science Advances, 2017, 3 (10), eaao3530

2. Energy invariance in capillary systems, É. Ruiz-Gutiérrez, J.H. Guan, B. Xu, G. McHale, G.G. Wells and R. Ledesma-Aguilar, Physical Review Letters, 2017,  118 (21), 218003

3. Not spreading in reverse: The dewetting of a liquid film into a single drop. A.M.J. Edwards, R.L. Aguilar, M.I. Newton, C.V. Brown and G. McHale, Science Advances, 2016, 2 (9), e1600183

4.  A sublimation heat engine. G. G. Wells, R. Ledesma-Aguilar, G. McHale and K. Sefiane, Nature Communications, 2015, 6, 6390

5.  Liquid marbles: topical context within soft matter and recent progress. G. McHale and M. I. Newton, Soft Matter, 2015, 11 (13), 2530 (Invited Review)

6. Voltage-induced spreading and superspreading of liquids. G. McHale, C. V. Brown and N. Sampara, Nature Communications, 2013, 4, 1605

Further Information

Further Information

My Google Scholar page can be viewed here.

Information for prospective research students:

Opportunities to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil/PhD or MSc by research exist in all the areas identified above.

Further information may be obtained from The Graduate School.

Public understanding website Nature's Raincoats

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