David Watts

David Watts, BSc,PhD,DSc,FInstP,FRSC, FRSB, FADM


Personal profile

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • Fellow of the Institute of Physics
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Fellow of the Academy of Dental Materials & Editor-in-Chief
  • EPSRC College member
  • IADR member
  • BSDR member
  • Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) member
  • Faraday Institute for Science and Religion: Associate


Head of Research Theme: Adhesive Biomaterials & Biomechanics.

Research interests

Laboratory-based biomaterials research is essential to the genesis and development of new and improved biomaterials for dentistry and orthopaedics. The questions requiring resolution far exceed the worldwide resources available for Randomised Clinical Trials. Hence, careful and appropriate laboratory modeling is also needed to replicate key features of the oral environment, including its biomechanical, thermal, optical, chemical, biochemical and cellular aspects. Recent publications address all of these dimensions of research, and contribute to an enhanced mechanistic understanding of biomaterial behaviour.

Research interest involves the whole field of dental and orthopaedic biomaterials, but especially in polymer systems, composites and adhesives. Biomaterials for dental operative use entail special 'boundary conditions' on account especially of in situ solidification, micro-engineered small quantities and constrained cavity-filling placement. This research has also branched into cognate areas including Acrylic Bone Cement and Medical/Photonic adhesives.

The following specific topics are illustrative of our interdisciplinary research:

  • The stability of interfaces between host tissues and restorative biomaterials is crucial. Substantial advances have been made in tissue-engineering the interface of hard substrates such as dentine and bone, but these hybrid bonding zones are challenged clinically by the rapid development of intra-coronal and intra-femoral stresses arising from molecular setting processes. Our laboratory has had a major world-wide impact upon the measurement and understanding of these polymerisation-shrinkage phenomena, especially in the dynamics of photo-polymerisation. Photo-activation methods, based on LED light sources, have now been deployed and these are being carefully evaluated, along with composite biomaterials based around novel chemistry and systematically-varied formulations.
  • Metal-free biomaterials - required to withstand functional stresses - are usually designed around composite structures and/or high performance ceramics. These cannot be dissolved so as to apply classical analytical methods. Investigation of their behaviour and internal microstructures, down to the molecular and nano-scales requires development of appropriate spectroscopic, viscoelastic and image-analysis techniques. We deploy several experimental methods, including Photo-DSC, FTIR, Rheology, XRD, XRF, X-Ray 3-D micro-tomography and Fracture-Mechanics, for this purpose.
  • Natural bio-composites utilise fibres as well as particulate ceramics for reinforcement. We are collaborating with researchers from Finland in developing user-friendly, economical and strong fibre-reinforced biomaterials for applications in endodontics, temporary restoratives and fixed and removable prosthodontics.
  • Clinical placement of biomaterials is greatly affected by their perceived ease of handling and manipulation in vivo. However, these clinical impressions are frequently highly subjective and non-transferable. We have made pioneering strides to develop in vitro quantitative methods of measuring elusive properties such as stickiness and packing behaviour of un-set materials. Our approach has involved the design of novel scientific instrumentation.
  • Aesthetic dentistry relates to the optical properties of biomaterials, which also depends on their surface morphology and their internal microstructure. We use a combination of scanning-probe (atomic force), electron and optical microscopies and photo-electron spectroscopy to investigate surface changes.
  • Electrospinning of treated nano/micro-sized polymer fibres is being used for (i) promotion of bone growth for defect repair and (ii) drug delivery in periodontology.

Methodological knowledge

  • Photo-Polymerisation kinetics
  • Biomaterials for Dentistry and Orthopaedics
  • Science of Polymers and Networks
  • Dielectric and mechanical relaxation processes
  • Multi-scale imaging and modeling
  • Design of novel biomaterial science instrumentation
  • Correlation of clinical behaviour and biomaterial properties
  • Scientific methodology for biomaterials research


  • Biomaterials Science (BDS  Y1, Y2 & Y3) and (BSc – Biomedical Materials Y2)
  • Research Methods - in Biomaterials Science - postgraduate


I graduated in Chemistry and Physics, at the University of Wales, and completed a PhD in Chemical Physics with Prof. Graham Williams. Following two years as a 6th Form Science Teacher in Cheshire, I returned to research in Chemistry and Materials Science at the University of Manchester with Sir Geoffrey Allen FRS.

Through research into dielectric spectroscopy of polymers, I became a co-discoverer of the Kohlrausch-Williams-Watts [KWW] stretched-exponential function for modeling molecular-relaxation processes in condensed media. These papers have attracted more than 5,000 citations.

I was appointed to a lectureship in Biomaterials Science within the School of Dentistry and subsequently promoted to S/L (1983), Reader (1992) and Professor (2000). During this period I also gained teaching experience with the Open University, Manchester Metropolitan University and NorthWestern University, Chicago. I was a co-founder of a new B.Sc. degree course inBiomedical Materials in the Manchester School of Materials.

I am concurrently Adjunct Research Professor in Biomaterials and Biomechanics, at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA, and an Honorary faculty Member of the Center for Mechanics of Biological Materials, University of Padova. www.cmbm.unipd.it

I have a major commitment to Postgraduate Education and Research, through leading a group of Biomaterials researchers including circa 10 PhD candidates. 70+ PhDs and 50+ Masters degrees have been successfully supervised personally, to date.

I sustain a wide-ranging basic research activity in biomaterials for dentistry and orthopaedics and am a member of the Photon Science Institute. In 2003 I received the IADR Distinguished Scientist [Wilmer Souder] Award for research in dental biomaterials. In 2010 I received the Humboldt Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany - a lifetime research achievement award; in 2011 the President's Prize and in 2017 the Alan Wilson Memorial Lecture Award of the UK Society for Biomaterials. Also in 2017 the Founders's Award of the Academy of Dental Materials.

Since 1998 I have been Editor-in-Chief of Dental Materials [Elsevier], now one of the highest impact-factor research journals in dentistry and materials science. My other interests include:

  • Biblical languages & literature. Christian Theology
  • History, Philosophy & Theology of Science
  • Modern European literature. Adventure travel
  • Mountain photography and geology. Alpine mountaineering; rock & ice climbing; [Elected Member of the Alpine Club, London & the Swiss Alpine Club]



Alexander von Humboldt Laureate

My collaborations

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

External positions

Visiting Professor, Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat Jena

1 Oct 2009 → …

Honorary Faculty Member, Universita Degli Studi di Padova

1 Jul 2005 → …

Adjunct Research Professor, Oregon Health and Science University

1 Jun 2000 → …

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute


  • Biomaterials
  • Composites
  • Photopolymerization
  • Adhesives
  • Bone Regeneration
  • Dentistry


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