Professor Brian W Darvell BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc, CChem CSci FRSC FIMMM FSS FADM

Professor Brian W Darvell

School of Dentistry
Honorary Professorship

Contact details

Brian Darvell is Honorary Professor at the School of Dentistry, having been involved in research and teaching in Dental Materials Science since 1969.  Broadly focussed on the development of test methods, the areas that have been covered are somewhat eclectic.  However, the project of greatest longevity – started as his post-doc study in 1975 – is the solubility of calcium phosphates, and especially that of hydroxyapatite.


  • DSc in Dental Materials Science, University of Birmingham (2006): Advances in Dental Materials Science: Increasing the relevance and interpretability of results                                                                   
  • CSci Chartered Scientist (2004)
  • FIMMM  Fellow, Institute of Materials, Minerals and  Mining (1998)
  • FADM Fellow, Academy of Dental Material (1996)
  • FSS Fellow, Royal Statistical Society (1984)
  • FRSC Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry (1986)
  • CChem Chartered Chemist (1981)
  • PhD in Dental Materials Science, University of Birmingham (1975): Factors influencing the corrosion of dental amalgam
  • MSc in Dental Materials Science, University of Wales (1971): The corrosion of dental amalgam – a photometric method        
  • BSc (Hons) in Chemistry, University College Cardiff (1969)


Having qualified with a degree in chemistry, he commenced MSc studies in the Welsh National School of Medicine on the Heath, Cardiff.  On the strength of that thesis, he was invited to do his PhD at the University of Birmingham.  This led to his post-doctoral appointment in the University of Melbourne, where he invented the solid titration method of solubility determination.  While there, he was invited to apply for the post of Senior Lecturer in the then as-yet-unbuilt new dental school in Hong Kong, where he stayed for some 29 years, having been promoted to Reader in Dental Materials Science in 1998.  After being retired by HKU, Brian had a four-year stint in Kuwait as Professor of Dental Materials Science setting up a research laboratory. Now fully-retired (i.e. unpaid) he continues with numerous projects in world-wide collaborations as well as in UoB.

Although much of his early work centred on dental silver amalgam, the development of an artificial saliva for laboratory studies of dental materials raised the question of hydroxyapatite solubility, with problems still not yet resolved even after the efforts of four PhD students and numerous papers. 

Even so, Brian’s publishing history shows that he is very much a generalist, having addressed a wide range of topics, often in innovative fashion, but with a distinct appetite for large data sets in order to have clear conclusions.  He often decries the poor experimental design and data analysis of much literature in the field, bemoaning short-cuts and oversimplification.

Author of the textbook “Materials Science for Dentistry”, whose 10th edition is in preparation, he remains keen to show that comprehension of the principles are well within the grasp of undergraduates.  He remains disappointed by the lack of curriculum time generally afforded the subject, and the negative attitude shown by many clinical teachers, despite its importance to all of dentistry.

Postgraduate supervision

Successfully supervised 5 MPhil and 19 PhD students (all in Hong Kong)


  • Magnets

With a number of specialized uses in dentistry, their fundamental physics – strangely enough – is not understood.  Brian has work in hand to address this lack, although it would appear to raise more questions that it answers.

  • Calcium phosphates

Solubility is key to biological and other contexts, yet broadly it is not understood, the standard method gives widely discrepant results.  Solid titration has shown features and behaviour hitherto unsuspected, and a much lower solubility than expected.  The role of ‘foreign’ ions is of wide significance is the current focus.

  • Miscellany

In writing his textbook, in which explanation is the goal (as opposed to the mere presentation of data, formulae and instructions), he has uncovered many lacunae – absences that are ignored, misinterpreted, or not even recognized as existing.  These have prompted many projects – and continue to do so – shining light on what has often been taken for granted and dispelling myths and guesswork.  Brian’s publication list is the best summary of this activity.

  • Test method design

It should be self-evident that a test provide data that is interpretable in the context of the service that the material is expected to see, yet it is common that methods and conditions are chosen for convenience rather than meaning.  In many instances, there are indeed difficulties in meeting such a demand, but with care a better approximation is feasible.  Brian takes this as an overarching philosophical issue rather than a topic as such, yet it is pervasiveness is such as to colour the approach taken in most of his published work, and is a theme that has run through his studies from PhD onward, and indeed the title of his DSc thesis.

Other activities

Brian has been involved in the standardization work of ISO TC106 (Dentistry) since 1980, contributing to the deliberations of numerous working groups, such as for silver amalgam, cements, filled resins, investments, and latterly CAD-CAM for ceramics.  He is a delegate for both Hong Kong and Belgium.


  • M Wei, JE Dyson, BW Darvell Factors affecting dental air-turbine handpiece bearing failure Oper Dent 37 (4): E1-E12 (2012)  
  • QD Wu, CC Yang, HQ Zhang, CX Yin, BW Darvell, X Fan Fabrication and characterization of reaction-bonded silicon carbide with poly(methylmethacrylate) as pore-forming agent Ceramics Int 39: 5295–5302 (2013) (DOI: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2012.12.032)
  •  Q Liu, ZF Chen, HB Pan, BW Darvell The effect of excess phosphate on the solubility of hydroxyapatite Ceramics Int 40:  2751–2761 (2013)  (DOI: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2013.10.044)
  • M Wei, JE Dyson, BW Darvell Failure analysis of the ball bearings of dental air-turbine handpieces Aust  Dent J  58(4):514-21 (2013) (DOI:10.1111/adj.12112)
  • Q Liu,  JP Matinlinna, ZF Chen, CY Ning, GX N, HB Pan, BW Darvell Effect of thermal treatment on carbonated hydroxyapatite: morphology, composition, crystal characteristics and solubility Ceramics Int 41: 6149-6157 (2015) (DOI: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2014.11.062)
  • S Sanli, M Dündar Çömlekoglu, E Çömlekoglu, M Sonugelen, BW Darvell Influence of surface treatment on the resin-bonding of zirconia Dent Mater 31: 657-668 (2015) (DOI:10.1016/
  • WL Liu, JB Wu, T Wang, BW Darvell, J Wu, XL Dan, KL Lin, J Chang, Y Lin, HB Pan, WW Lu Alkaline biodegradable implants for osteoporotic bone defects—Importance of microenvironment pH. Osteoporosis Int  27: 93-104 (2016) (DOI: 10.1007/s00198-015-3217-8)
  • SM Philip, BW Darvell Effect of heat treatment on the tensile strength of ‘Elgiloy’ orthodontic wire.  Dent Mater 32: 1036-1041 (2016) (DOI: 10.1016/