Dr Karl Dearn PhD, MEng, Wh Sch, Wh SSch, AMIMechE, FHEA

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Director of Industrial Liaison
Formula Student Facility Advisor

Contact details

+44(0) 121 414 4190
+44(0) 121 414 7484
School of Mechanical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

 Karl Dearn applies mechanical principles and design methodologies to solve problems in tribology and engineering design.  He has a multidisciplinary research portfolio that encompasses the development of polymer and composites for energy applications, novel automotive tribology, the design and optimisation of biomedical implants and further research in fundamental polymer tribology.   His research is supported with both research council funding including the EPSRC, Innovate UK, the EU, Royal Academy of Engineering and also industrial organisations such as Jaguar LandRover, Shell, Mahle Engine Systems and IMI. Karl has authored c.40 peer-reviewed technical and scientific publications in journals, international conferences and as book chapters.  He is the director of the multidisciplinary polymer tribology laboratory in mechanical engineering and is a co-director of the multi-sectorial Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage. 

His administrative roles in the School include Faculty Advisor to the University’s Formula Student Team, UBRacing and management of the School’s industrial relationships as the Director of Industrial Liaison. 

As the school’s main point of contact for industrial liaison, Karl is the primary contact for companies wishing to create and explore links with the School of Mechanical Engineering.  He brings together his industrial experience with a detailed knowledge of the School and University.  He can help companies to define their interests and needs (including, student projects, Year in Industry, summer placements and research), articulate objectives for interaction with the School and help develop a plan of action to meet these.


  • PhD in Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham,  2009
  • MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering 2005
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Associate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  • Whitworth Senior Scholar 2009
  • Whitworth Scholar 2005


Karl served his engineering apprenticeship with Yale Security Products and spent a further 6 years with Assa Abloy as a research and development engineer specialising in low energy and high security product development. He obtained his MEng (2005) and PhD (2009) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Birmingham.  His PhD research concerned the tribology and performance of polymer gears.  In 2008, Karl was appointed to a lectureship in Mechanical Engineering.  



  • Lecturer, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham (since August 2008).


  • Doctoral Researcher in Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham, August 2005 – October 2008
  • Design, Research and Development Engineer,  Assa Abloy (formerly Yale Security Products) Sept 2000 – Sept 2005
  • Technical Engineering Apprentice Assa Abloy (formerly Yale Security Products)
    Sept 1996 – Aug 2000


  • National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC) Foreign Research Scholar, Hefei University of Technology (2015)
  • Visiting University Fellow, Cranfield University (2012 – 2015)


  • 2015 Birmingham Enterprise Showcase – Most Successful Business collaboration award

Received at the final of the University of Birmingham’s prestigious Innovation Competition that nurtures research led enterprise.  The award was based on a a 5 minute pitch and 5-page case on the innovative project between IMI Truflo Marine Ltd and School of Mechanical Engineering, outlining the significance of the outputs to Truflo, the University and the potential for an ongoing and very productive relationship.    

  • IMechE visionary  2009

Awarded on the basis of talent, leadership skills, motivation and a desire to educate the next generation

  • Whitworth Senior Award Holder 2006

Senior Whitworth Awards are awarded in national competition to outstanding engineers who have recently graduated with an engineering degree (1 of 2 awarded)

  • Whitworth Award Holder 2002

Whitworth awards are given to enabling outstanding engineers, who have excellent academic and practical skills and the qualities needed to succeed in industry (I was 1 of 10 awarded nationally)


Karl’s teaching activities are in materials, design and machine element theory and covers a broad range courses.  Courses include:  Mechanical Design A & B (comprising mechanical design and machine elements theory), Design and Professional Skills, Forensic Engineering and the Causes of Accidents.  He has also supervised over 50 final-year honours projects and he is the facility advisor for the School’s Formula Student team (UBRacing).     

Karl has also received funding from the HEA, EPSRC, Nuffield Foundation and the University of Birmingham (2009, 2010 and 2011) to support his teaching and enhance the student study experience and development.  

He has a significant responsibility for teaching innovation and has completed a PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and he is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  He has published part of this work in a Peer-reviewed conference paper: K D Dearn, A Tsolakis, A Megaritis and D Walton, ‘Adapting to engineering education and teaching challenges’ 3rd International Symposium for Engineering Education, Cork, Ireland (2010). 

Postgraduate supervision

Karl is the Joint Supervisor of 9 PhD students.  He welcomes new students who have excellent potential for PhD research to tackle new scientific and engineering challenges in his research areas.  Those with government scholarships are particularly encouraged to apply.  He also welcomes visiting scholars with a relevant background.


Research Themes and Activities

Karl’s research combines mechanical design and tribology and focuses predominantly on making mechanical components and devices achieve higher levels of efficiency and performance.  His work uses design methodologies founded in fundamental principles of mechanics.  This is catalysed by the development of tribological methods and techniques and experience in materials science and mathematical tools to understand problems. 

His research activities theme can be broadly grouped as:

Polymer tribology

Friction, wear and lubrication of engineering polymer and polymer for composites machine elements.  Polymer gearing technology. 


Engine and component lubrication and durability particularly fuel injection equipment.  The physical and chemical properties of fuels, lubricants and novel additives; condition monitoring and inspection of mechanical systems. 


Design and development of spinal implants, tribology of disc arthroplasty, characterisation of novel materials


Application of engineering science and computer aided engineering in the design of products, applications of innovative design methodologies and symbiosis, knowledge transfer and management


A full list of Karl’s publications can be found on Google Scholar.

Selected journal publications

  1. Y Xu, Y Peng, X Zheng, K D Dearn, H Xu, X Hu, 2015, Synthesis and tribological studies of nanoparticle additives for pyrolysis bio-oil formulated as a diesel fuel, Energy, DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2015.01.117.
  2. K Dearn, J Xu, H Ding, H Xu, A Weall, P Kirkby, B Cooper, I Edington, 2014, An Investigation into the Characteristics of DISI Injector Deposits Using Advanced Analytical Methods, SAE Int. J. Fuels Lubr. 7(3):771-782, 2014, doi:10.4271/2014-01-2722
  3. E Hu, X Hu, T Liu, R Song, KD Dearn, H Xu, 2014, Role of TiF3 catalyst in the tribological properties of biofuel soot-contaminated liquid paraffin, Tribology International (77), pp.122-131, DOI: 10.1016/j.triboint.2014.04.022
  4. Y Xu, X Zheng, X Hu, K D Dearn, H Xu, 2014, ‘Effect of catalytic esterification on the friction and wear performance of bio-oil’, Wear (311), pp. 93-100, DOI: 10.1016/j.wear.2013.12.029
  5. T J Hoskins, K D Dearn, Y K Chen and S N Kukureka, 2014, ‘The wear of PEEK in rolling–sliding contact – simulation of polymer gear applications’ Wear, (309), pp. 35–42, DOI: 10.1016/j.wear.2013.09.014
  6. H S Tira, A Tsolakis, D Turner, K D Dearn, K Theinnoi and M L Wyszynski, 2014, Influence of Fuel Properties, Hydrogen, and Reformate Additions on Diesel-Biogas Dual-Fuelled Engine, Journal of Energy Engineering, DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)EY.1943-7897.0000173
  7. E Hu, X Hu, T Liu, R Song, K D Dearn, H Xu, 2013, ‘Effect of TiF3 catalyst on the tribological properties of carbon black-contaminated engine oils’, Wear, (305), pp. 166-176, DOI:10.1016/j.wear.2013.06.003
  8. H Xin, D E T Shepherd and K D Dearn, 2013, ‘Strength of polyether-ether-ketone: effects of sterilisation and thermal ageing’, Polymer Testing, DOI:10.1016/j.polymertesting.2013.05.012
  9. E Hu, X Hu, Y Xu, L Fang, K D Dearn and H Xu, 2013, ‘The Role of Soot Particles in the Tribological Behaviour of Engine Lubricating Oils’, Wear , (304), pp. 152-161, DOI:10.1016/j.wear.2013.05.002
  10. H Xin, D E T Shepherd and K D Dearn, 2013, ‘A tribological assessment of a PEEK based self-mating total cervical disc replacement’, Wear, (303), pp. 473-479, DOI: 10.1016/j.wear.2013.03.052
  11. E Sukjit, J M Herreros, J Piaszyk, K D Dearn and A Tsolakis, 2013 ‘Finding Synergies in Fuels Properties for the Design of Renewable Fuels - Hydroxylated Biodiesel Effects on Butanol-Diesel Blends’ Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es400131j
  12. K D Dearn, T J Hoskins, D G Petrov, S C Reynolds and R Banks, 2013, ‘Applications of dry film lubricants for polymer gears’, Wear, (298–299), pp. 99-108, DOI: 10.1016/j.wear.2012.11.003
  13. K D Dearn, T J Hoskins, L Andrei and D Walton, 2013, ‘Lubrication regimes in high performance polymer spur gears’, Advances in Tribology, vol. 2013, Article ID 987251, DOI:10.1155/2013/987251
  14. E Sukjit, J M Herreros, K D Dearn, A Tsolakis and K Theinnoi, 2012, ‘Effect of hydrogen on butanol–biodiesel blends in compression ignition engines’, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2012.11.061
  15. E Hu, X Hu, X Wang, Y Xu, K D Dearn and H Xu, 2012, ‘On the Fundamental Lubricity of 2, 5-Dimethylfuran as a Synthetic Engine Fuel’, Tribology International (55) pp. 119-125, DOI: 10.1016/j.triboint.2012.06.005
  16. E Sukjit, A Tsolakis and K D Dearn, 2012, ‘Interrogating the surface: the effect of blended diesel fuels on lubricity’, SAE International Journal of Fuels and Lubricants (5), pp. 154-162, DOI: 10.4271/2011-01-1940
  17. E Sukjit, JM Herreros, K D Dearn, R García-Contreras and A Tsolakis, 2012, ‘The effect of the addition of individual methyl esters on the combustion and emissions of ethanol and butanol diesel blends’ Energy (42), pp. 364 – 374, DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2012.03.041
  18. H Xin, D E T Shepherd and K D Dearn, 2012, ‘PEEK (Polyether-ether-ketone) based cervical total disc arthroplasty: contact stress and lubrication analysis’, The Open Biomedical Engineering Journal (6) pp. 73-79, DOI: 10.2174/1874230001206010073
  19. S S Gill, A Tsolakis, K D Dearn and J. Rodríguez-Fernández, 2011, ‘Combustion Characteristics and Emissions of Fischer-Tropsch Diesel Fuels in IC Engines’, Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, (37), pp. 503 – 523, DOI:10.1016/j.pecs.2010.09.001 [Review]
  20. E Sukjit and K D Dearn, 2011, ‘Enhancing the lubricity of an environmentally friendly Swedish diesel fuel MK1’, Wear (271), pp. 1772-1777, DOI: 10.1016/j.wear.2010.12.088
  21. T J Hoskins, K D Dearn, S N Kukureka and D Walton, 2011, ‘Acoustic noise from polymer gears – A tribological investigation’, Materials and Design, (32), pp. 3509-3515, DOI: 10.1016/j.matdes.2011.02.041
  22. M Karimpour, K D Dearn *and D Walton, 2010, ‘A kinematic analysis of meshing polymer gear teeth’, Proc. of the IMechE, Part L: Journal of Materials: Design and Applications, (224), pp. 101 – 115, DOI: 10.1243/14644207JMDA315
  23. P Klein Meuleman, D Walton, K D Dearn, D J Weale and I Driessen, 2007, ‘Minimisation of transmission errors in highly loaded plastic gear trains’ Proc. of the IMechE, Part C, Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science, (221), pp. 1117-1129, DOI: 10.1243/09544062JMES439Book


  1. D E T Shepherd and K D Dearn, 2012 ‘Wear processes in polymer implants’ In: M J Jenkins and A Stamboulis (eds) Durability and reliability of medical polymers, Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing, pp. 143-163 [ISBN 1-84569-929-7] DOI: 10.1533/9780857096517.2.143
  2. K D Dearn, S N Kukureka and D Walton, 2009 ‘Engineering Polymers and Composites for Machine Elements’ In: S K Sinha and B J Briscoe (eds), Polymer Tribology, London: Imperial College Press, pp. 470-505 [ISBN: 978-1-84816-202-0] DOI: 10.1142/9781848162044_0014