Professor Sarah Hainsworth

Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering

Contact Details

SarahTelephone +44 (0)116 252 5692

Fax +44 (0)116 252 2525


Location: Room 216, Michael Atiyah Building




I have a BEng and doctorate from the University of Newcastle and am a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Chartered Scientist (CSci), and a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (FIMMM).

I was recipient of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Tribology Bronze Medal in 1995, the Rosenhain Medal of the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining in 2008, and was nominated as one the Women's Engineering Society's Outstanding Technical Women in 2009.  In 2015, I received the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Engineering Sciences Section Andrew H. Payne Jr. Special Achievement Award in recognition of exemplary contributions in advancing forensic engineering sciences.

In addition to my academic post, I am:

Research Interests

I am a member of the Department of Engineering's Mechanics of Materials Research Group.

My research interests are in four main areas:

  • forensic engineering
  • automotive tribology
  • microstructural evolution in power plant materials
  • measurement of residual stress in engineering components using neutron diffraction

Forensic Engineering

In the area of forensic engineering, my research is into two main areas, forces involved in stabbing and characterising tool marks in injury and dismemberment.  The short videos below talk about some of our research.

Knife Crime - The Thrust of the Matter

Stabbing is the most common way of committing murder in the UK and most other countries where guns are prohibited. British Crime Survey data suggested that in 2010-11 a knife was used in around 126,000 violent incidents. However, very little work has been carried out into understanding what happens during a stabbing incident.

This video briefly touches on some of the work that we have been conducting over the past 10 years aimed at improving our knowledge of the different variables influencing the forces required for stabbing with different implements.

Engineering a Safer Drinking Glass

Drinking glasses can be used as improvised weapons in alcohol-related violence. There are several thousand incidences of "glassings" - attacks involving drinking glasses or glass bottles - every year.

Our research is investigating ways in which the design and manufacture of glasses influence the way in which they fracture. By understanding the detailed failure mechanisms we can understand how to improve the safety of glasses and reduce their injury potential.

Tool Mark Analysis

In terms of tool mark analysis, I have recently been involved in the work related to the skeleton of Richard III  that has been found in the choir of the church at Grey Friars in Leicester. I have been collaborating with Jo Appleby and others from the University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.

We have been looking at the tool marks using the technique of micro computed X-ray tomography and also using our stereo microscopes to look in greater detail at the wounds found on the skeleton and relate these to possible weapons.

Learn more about our work and the role of micro-computed tomography in forensic applications.

Visit the Richard III Project Website to read more about micro-computed tomography was used to help identify Richard III's remains.

Automotive Tribology

My work in automotive tribology is involved in investigating the mechanical properties and failure mechanisms of  coated components for use in the automotive valve-train. We have a number of specially developed testing rigs predict in-service performance by running under operating conditions as close to engine conditions as possible. This means that we can test new materials such as diamond like carbon coatings and also discriminate between the performance of different lubricants with different additive packages. We have a complete range of tools for characterizing coating performance in the laboratory.

The research in this area is mainly experimentally based, and is aimed at providing an understanding of the performance of materials through fully characterizing the observed response under a range of experimental conditions.

Microstructural Evolution

Another area of research is understanding how high microstructural evolution occurs in materials subjected to high temperatures and high stresses in steam and gas power plant. We are investigating steels and nickel-based alloys in order to understand how their microstructures and mechanical properties evolve as a function of exposure to the operating environment.

The work involves characterisation of microstructures by optical, scanning and transmission electron microscopies and the results are being used in development of appropriate models. We are additionally developing an abradable seal high temperature steam and wear testing rig capable of operating under dry steam conditions to investigate the oxidation and wear of abradable seal materials.

Professor Sarah Hainsworth - steel sample

Figure One: An electron backscattered diffraction map of a steel sample after exposure to high temperature and stress. Such maps allow us to monitor changes in grain sizes and orientations and help us understand how microstructure evolves over time.

Professor Sarah Hainsworth - diesel soot

Figure Two: A transmission electron microscope image of particles of diesel soot. An understanding of the structure and size of particles is aiding our understanding of how soot in diesel oil leads to increased engine wear.

Neutron diffraction is being used to evaluate intergranular stresses in magnesium alloys for optimising production routes for automotive applications. Magnesium is a lightweight high strength material that can be processed by casting and forging and experiments are being conducted to better understand processing on resultant mechanical performance.

In addition to my research, I am Director of the Advanced Microscopy Centre, Director of the Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Collaborative (ASDEC) Research Centre, and Head of the Materials Technology Integration Centre (MaTIC), and I collaborate widely on the use of microscopy for a broad range of research.

Research Degree Supervision

I would be interested in supervising PhD study in the following areas:

  • Forensic Engineering
  • Automotive Tribology
  • Advanced Coatings
  • High Temperature Materials
  • Tribology and Materials Characterisation

Learn more and apply for research degrees in engineering.

Recent Publications

  • S.D.A. Lawes, S.V. Hainsworth, M.E. Fitzpatrick, “Impact wear testing of DLC for engine valve-train applications” Wear 268 (2010) 1303-1308
  • M. K. Khan, S. V. Hainsworth, M. E. Fitzpatrick, L. Edwards, “A Combined Experimental and Finite Element Approach to Determining Mechanical Properties of Aluminium Alloys by Nanoindentation” Computational Materials Science 49 (2010) 751–760
  • M. K. Khan, M. E. Fitzpatrick, L. Edwards, S. V. Hainsworth, “Determination of the residual stress field around scratches using synchrotron X-rays and nanoindentation” - Materials Science Forum Vol. 652 (2010) pp 25-30
  • R. Krishna, S.V. Hainsworth, H.V. Atkinson, A. Strang, “Microstructural analysis of creep exposed IN617 alloy” Materials Science and Technology 26 (2010) 797-802
  • M. K. Khan, M. E. Fitzpatrick, S. V. Hainsworth, L. Edwards, “Effect of residual stress on the nanoindentation response of aerospace aluminium alloys” Computational Materials Science 50 (2011) 2967-2976
  • M. K. Khan, M. E. Fitzpatrick, S. V. Hainsworth, A. D. Evans, L. Edwards, “Application of synchrotron X-ray diffraction and nanoindentation for the determination of residual stress fields around scratches” Acta Materialia 59 (2011) 7508–7520
  • G. Nolan, S.D.A. Lawes, S.V. Hainsworth, G.N. Rutty, “An investigation into the force required for broken glass bottles to penetrate a skin simulant” International Journal of Legal Medicine 126 (2012) 19-25
  • K. Parmar, S.V. Hainsworth, G.N. Rutty “Quantification of forces required for stabbing with screwdrivers and other blunter instruments” International Journal of Legal Medicine, 126 (2012) 43-53
  • G. Nolan, S.V. Hainsworth, G.N. Rutty “Forces required for a knife to penetrate various clothing types” Journal of Forensic Sciences, 58 (2013) 372–379
  • J.W. Bond, S.V. Hainsworth, T. L. Lau, T. Loe “Lead Theft-A Study of the "Uniqueness" of Lead from Church Roofs" Journal of Forensic Sciences 58 (2013) 1003-1007
  • R. Krishna, S.V. Hainsworth*, S.P.A. Gill, H.V. Atkinson, A. Strang  “Topologically Close-Packed μ Phase Precipitation in Creep-Exposed Inconel 617 Alloy” Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A: 44 (2013)1419-1429
  • G.N. Rutty, A. Brough, M.J.P. Biggs, C. Robinson, S.D.A. Lawes, S.V. Hainsworth “The role of micro-computed tomography in forensic investigations” Forensic Science International 225 (2013) 60-66
  • S. Kandemir, H.V. Atkinson, D.P. Weston, S.V. Hainsworth “Thixoforming of A356/SiC and A356/TiB2 Nanocomposites Fabricated by a Combination of Green Compact Nanoparticle Incorporation and Ultrasonic Treatment of the Melted Compact” Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A 45 (2014), 5782-5798
  • J. Appleby, G.N. Rutty, S.V. Hainsworth, R.C. Woosnam-Savage, B. Morgan, A. Brough, R.W. Earp, C. Robinson, T.E. King, M. Morris, R. Buckley, “Perimortem trauma in King Richard III: a skeletal analysis” The Lancet, 385 (2015) (9964), 253-259
  • R.W. Earp, S.V. Hainsworth, D.A. Eustice, C. Robinson, M.D. Glendenning “The Effect of Tempering and Wall Thickness on the Fracture of Pint Glasses” International Journal of Applied Glass Science, International Journal of Applied Glass Science, 1–12 (2014) DOI:10.1111/ijag.12099

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