Contact Professor John Nicholls


John Nicholls joined Cranfield Institute of Technology (now Cranfield University), as a Research Officer, in 1974. He was promoted to Senior Research Officer and Head of 'High Temperature Materials' in 1978; following his appointment, the group's research activities expanded to encompass contaminant corrosion of materials for boilers, gas turbines and diesel engines; high temperature erosion, erosion-corrosion interactions; and the performance of coatings at high temperatures. These themes have been a fundamental aspect of Professor Nicholls research, over 35 years, where he has an international reputation for his studies in the design and manufacture of coating systems to combat high temperature corrosion, erosion and wear.

The research into coating technology, coating manufacture and its subsequent performance has expanded greatly since 1980, and is now one of the core theme of the Institute's (SENTi) activities. Continued growth was acknowledged with his appointment as Principal Research Officer (1985), Senior Principal Research Officer (1989) and in 1991 to a personal chair, Professor of Coating Technology. Research interests include the design and manufacture of coating systems and surface treatments to combat high temperature oxidation, corrosion, erosion and other high temperature wear processes. In 1991 he was also appointed European Editor of 'Materials at High Temperatures', a peer reviewed specialist journal. Since his appointment to Professor of Coating Technology, his research group has continued to expand. Between 2001-2004, he established the 'National High Temperature Surface Engineering Research Centre' at Cranfield which he has directed since this date, an outwardly facing business unit within the School of Applied Sciences at Cranfield that can develop and manufacture coating systems from laboratory scale through to pilot plant demonstrator. In 2006, Professor Nicholls was appointed Head of the 'Surface Science and Engineering Centre' at Cranfield University and in 2012 to Head of the newly formed 'Surface Engineering and Nanotechnology Institute (SENTi). SENTi now has 26 academic and research related staff, plus 52 postgraduate research students (MSc and PhD). Recent research includes: the manufacture of low thermal conductivity thermal barrier coatings (TBCs); research into self diagnostic TBCs; coating design for energy harvesting; functional nano-structured coatings; intermetallic diffusion barriers and the development of structured corrosion resistant coatings.

In 2009, Professor Nicholls was elected as Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, recognizing his World leading research in coating design , particularly low thermal conductivity thermal barrier coatings. Professor Nicholls has published 250 papers, contributed chapters to and edited several books and is joint holder of nine coating patents. He has given numerous keynote papers worldwide and is a contributor to the prestigious 'Gordon Research Conference', where he is regularly invited to speak. For 2009 he was Chairman of this conference on 'High Temperature Corrosion'. Professor Nicholls is a member and immediate past chairman of the Surface Engineering Committee of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. He is a member of the Institute's Surface Engineering Division Board and a member of the High Temperature Materials Committee. He is a past Vice President of the Institute of Corrosion and represents the UK on the European Federation of Corrosion working party on 'High Temperature Corrosion'.

Current activities

The development of low thermal conductivity, electron beam, physical vapour deposited thermal barrier coatings

The development of advanced bondcoat systems to provide long-life thermal barrier coating structures

Oxidation and High Temperature Corrosion mechanisms, models and processes

The development of stochastic life prediction models for bond coat oxidation

Influence of oxidation and high temperature corrosion the fatigue lives of disc alloys

The development of a smart corrosion resistant coating systems

The development of life prediction models for high temperature corrosion

The development of self diagnostic thermal barrier coating systems

The development of advanced abradable coatings

The development of multi-layered erosion resistant coatings

Erosion and Foriegn Object damage

Erosion and Foreign Object Damage to thermal barrier coatings and other high temperature coating systems


Working closely with Industry: Thirty five industrial companies, worldwide, have supported research in Professor Nicholls' group, with 40% of the groups research funding supported by Industry.

Key Industrial clients include:

Rolls-Royce plc, Derby, UK

Siemens Industrial Turbines, Lincoln, UK

Alstom Power, Whetstone, UK

SNECMA Moteurs, Villerouche, France

MTU, Munich, Germany

ITP, Spain

Howmet, USA


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers