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Professor Nicholas St John Braithwaite

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Associate Dean (Academic Excellence)
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Physical Sciences
  • n.s.braithwaite

Professional biography

I joined the Department of Materials Engineering at The Open University in 1987 to help prepare teaching resources on 'electronic materials': bringing a physics perspective to an engineering community. This was a convenient complement to my research on plasmas for semiconductor processing. As time past I became more and more involved in courses on engineering and materials while the subject of "technological plasmas" became a  fundable research theme.  

Looking for new challenges in 2004, I transferred to the Physics & Astronomy Department (August 2004): bringing an engineering perspective to a physics community. By 2010 I had become excited by the prospects of teaching practical science via the internet - and that ultiately led to the Wolfson OpenScience Lab. Technological plasmas in the meantime provided sufficient stimulation to keep the research team busy - still processing seiconductors but also looking into plasma loudspeakers and co-authoring a book: "Physics of Radio-Frequency Plasmas". 

In 2012 that department merged with our planetary and space colleagues to become the Department of Physical Sciences: more plasma processing and more practical science. In 2014 I became Science Director of the OU centre for STEM pedagogy: eSTEeM.

Research interests

My research is in plasma physics - a broad field that stretches from the interactions of charged particles with solid surfaces on a scale of micrometres to stars and the interstellar medium.  I have mainly concentrated at the beginning of this range with studies of plasmas formed from electrical discharges in gases as part of technological applications relating to the manufacture of semi-conductors.

UK Nonthermal Plasma Network (with Liverpool and Glasgow, EPSRC)

Studies of Magnetron Plasmas (with Liverpool and Salford, EPSRC, and with Teer Coatings and Cobham Technical Services, EPSRC)

Wafer Bonding (previously DTI, EPSRC Studentship)

Etching plasmas (with Oxford instruments Palsam Technology and EU collaborators)

Atmospheric Plasmas (PSRC, COST action on interactions of plasmas with biomedical materials)

Teaching interests

I enjoy the challenge of teaching in general and especially topics relating to classical physics, electronics, electricity and magnetism.  The preparation of OU teaching resources, including activities beyond the text, benefit from team based approaches, which provide a stimulating envirnoment for work.  I remain an enthusiastic face-to-face teacher. Although I used to find residential schools an exciting place to be I have actively developed alternative models for teaching practical science.

In the Technology Faculty I worked on T201 Materials in Action and its successor T203 (another Materials course), and T356 Artificial Intelligence for Technology.  I also led the production of T354 Inside Electronic Devices and T207 The Engineer as Problem Solver. 

Since joining the Department to Physics and Astronomy, I have contributed to the production of SMT359 Electromagnetism and S189 Understanding the Weather. More recently I coordinated the production of five inter-ralated  modules on practical science, known collectively as S288. I am currently Module Tean Chair on SXPA288 Practical Science: physics & astronomy and I am working on the module team for a new module in the Space Science & Technology masters qualification.

Impact and engagement

Following on from the S288 revolution which introduced on-screen practical science, we developed the Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory (OSL) a platform for delivering curriculum engagements featuring a variety of on-screen practical work. In essence we aim to take laboratories/observatories/field sites to people by means of the internet. In 2014 the OSL won the award for THE Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year, sponsored by Jisc.

The next phase of the OpenScience Lab development is a broadening to the OpenSTEM Labs which is increasing the amount of remotely accessed robotic equipment for online practical work in STEM qualifications. A recent HEFCE STEM Capital allocation of £2.8 m is funding this phase of development which will provide a step change in the quality and quantity of on-line practical work across many of our STEM qualifications. 


Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science


Externally funded projects

Internet of things- Smart Remote solar PV lab

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator13/Mar/201730/Nov/2017Royal Academy of Engineering
Over the last few decades, the applications of photovoltaic systems have grown rapidly and they are on their way to become a major energy source for India and Europe. Over the past few years the installed capacity increased 200 to 400% in Asia and Europe.. The year 2016 was another one for the books for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, as it has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade and is on the way to becoming a mature and mainstream source of electricity. For the second year in a row, in 2017 PVs were the top new source of electricity generation in the European Union. The capacity of the systems installed during this year is sufficient to cover the annual power supply needs of over 40 million European and Asian households. Each year these PV installations save more than 36 million tons of CO2. It is thus argued that reducing the EU's and Asias current rate of fossil-fuel combustion can be assisted greatly by introducing coherent, comprehensive and coordinated energy education policies. PVs continue to prove their ability to compete in the energy sector as a mainstream power generation source. However, even if the most pessimistic scenario is taken into account, PVs will continue to increase their share of the energy mix in Europe and around the world, becoming a reliable source of clean, safe and ceaseless renewable energy for all. It has been suggested that education on solar systems must be one of the priorities of the energy policy, to promote the solar energy applications for sustainable development. It is impossible to successfully promote solar systems without appropriately educated people who will be involved in their design, sizing, and installation. The main part of a PV system is the PV panel itself, as it is the part responsible for the conversion of solar energy to electricity. Thus, the theory of PV panels has been included in the curriculum of most educational institutes with an engineering course. However, it is well known how important the role of hands-on experience is in engineering education and hence, the theoretical study should be combined with experimentation in order for the students to be able to apply the theory of a specific device in actual conditions. Nowadays, the traditional approach of educational sessions in real laboratories is changing, with the virtual and remote laboratories gaining ground. This is attributed to the rapid developments and adoption of computer, internet and control technologies. A remote laboratory offers the ability to perform an extensive set of educational experiments under real conditions through the internet and within a very short time. At the same time, the student can have a live view of the systems through a web camera, offering him/her a sense of personal presence in the place where the experiment takes place. This project suggests the development of an open access remote PV laboratory for educational purposes. The remote PV laboratory, which will consist of specialized PV equipment, sensors, monitoring and control hardware, will be installed outdoors at the facilities of the OU, and allowing the users from India to perform real-world tests and experiments with photovoltaic panels over the internet, in real time. The system should be accessible by everyone on the planet with an internet access . It also should be accompanied by appropriate educational material, for several target groups, such as students, postgraduates, professionals and educators, allowing it to be used by a broad variety of users directly. The design should also be modular, to be easy to modify and or upgrade.

Ogden Science Officer / Citizen Science Research Fellow

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01/Sep/201531/Aug/2018The Ogden Trust
The Ogden Trust is providing matched funding to a maximum of £75k for 3 years for an 0.5 FTE outreach post, that we can add to the ASTERICS post and can therefore recruit a full-time postdoctoral research assistant.


High-Frequency-Induced Cathodic Breakdown during Plasma Electrolytic Oxidation (2017-09-12)
Nominé, A.; Nominé, A.V.; Braithwaite, N. St.J; Belmonte, T. and Henrion, G.
Physical Review Applied, 8, Article 31001(3)
Plasma engineering of graphene (2016-06)
Dey, A.; Chroneos, A.; Braithwaite, N. St. J.; Gandhiraman, Ram P. and Krishnamurthy, S.
Applied Physics Reviews, 3, Article 21301(2)
Concepts and characteristics of the 'COST Reference Microplasma Jet' (2016-01-20)
Golda, J; Held, J; Redeker, B; Konkowski, M; Beijer, P; Sobota, A; Kroesen, G; Braithwaite, N St J; Reuter, S; Turner , M M; Gans, T; O'Connell, D and Schulz-von der Gathen, V
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 49, Article 84003
Extraction and neutralization of positive and negative ions from a pulsed electronegative inductively coupled plasma (2015-10-22)
Marinov, D.; el Otell, Z.; Bowden, M. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 24, Article 65008(6)
Development of a novel wafer-probe for in situ measurements of thin film properties (2015-05-19)
el Otell, Z.; Marinov, D.; Šamara, V.; Bowden, M. D.; de Marneffe, J-F.; Verdonck, P. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 24, Article 32002(3)
Power coupling and electrical characterization of a radio-frequency micro atmospheric pressure plasma jet (2014-10-09)
Marinov, D. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 23, Article 62005(6)
A novel method for the detection of plasma jet boundaries by exploring DNA damage (2014-06-05)
Bahnev, Blagovest; Bowden, Mark; Stypczynska, Agnieszka; Ptasińska, Sylwia; Mason, Nigel and Braithwaite, Nicholas St.J.
European Physical Journal D, 68, Article 140(6)
Time-resolved ion flux, electron temperature and plasma density measurements in a pulsed Ar plasma using a capacitively coupled planar probe (2014-04-28)
Darnon, Maxime; Cunge, Gilles and Braithwaite, Nicholas St.J
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 23, Article 25002(2)
A review of hydrophilic silicon wafer bonding (2014-02-03)
Masteika, V.; Kowal, J.; Braithwaite, N. St.J. and Rogers, T.
ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, 3(4) (Q42-Q54)
The effect of atmospheric moisture on crack propagation in the interface between directly bonded silicon wafers (2013-05)
Masteika, V.; Kowal, J.; Braithwaite, N St.J and Rogers, T.
Microsystem Technologies, 19(5) (pp. 705-712)
Ion flux and ion distribution function measurements in synchronously pulsed inductively coupled plasmas (2013)
Brihoum, Melsia; Cunge, Gilles; Darnon , Maxime; Gahan, David; Joubert, Olivier and Braithwaite, Nicholas St.J
Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A, 31, Article 20604(2)
Chondrules born in plasma? Simulation of gas-grain interaction using plasma arcs with applications to chondrule and cosmic spherule formation (2012-12)
Morlok, A.; Sutton, Y. C.; Braithwaite, N St.J. and Grady, Monica M.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 47(12) (pp. 2269-2280)
A numerical and experimental investigation of an axially symmetric RF plasma (2012-10-16)
Sutton, Yvonne C.; Johnson, Peter C.; Naidis, George V.; Sharp, David and Braithwaite, Nicholas St. J.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 45, Article 455201(45)
Generation of microdischarges in diamond substrates (2012-04)
Mitea, S.; Zelznik, M.; Bowden, M. D.; May, P. W.; Fox, N. A.; Hart, J. N.; Fowler, C.; Stevens , R. and Braithwaite, N. StJ.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 21, Article 22001(2)
Modulation of microwave resonance probes (2012-04)
Šamara, V.; Bowden, M. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 21(2)
Looking into a plasma loudspeaker (2011-11)
Sutton, Yvonne; Moore, John; Sharp, David and Braithwaite, Nicholas St.J
IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 39(11) (pp. 2146-2147)
Influence of the ion bombardment of O2 plasmas on low-k materials (2011-10-31)
Verdonck, Patrick; Šamara, Vladimir; Goodyear, Alec; Ferchichi, Abdelkarim; Van Besien, Els; Baklanov, Mikhail R. and Braithwaite, Nicholas
Thin Solid Films, 520(1) (pp. 464-468)
The influence of amino acids on DNA damage induced by cold plasma radiation (2010-11-19)
Stypczynska, Agnieszka; Ptasińska, Sylwia; Bahnev, Blagovest; Bowden, Mark; Braithwaite, Nicholas St. J. and Mason, Nigel J.
Chemical Physics Letters, 500(4-6) (pp. 313-317)
DNA strand scission induced by a non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma jet (2010-06-16)
Ptasińska, Sylwia; Bahnev, Blagovest; Stypczynska, Agnieszka; Bowden, Mark; Mason, Nigel and Braithwaite, Nicholas St. J.
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 12(28) (pp. 7779-7781)
Effect of power modulation on properties of pulsed capacitively coupled radiofrequency discharges (2010)
Šamara, V.; Bowden, M. D. and Braithwaite, N. St. J.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 43(12) (p 124017)
Surface activation for low temperature wafer fusion bonding by radicals produced in an oxygen discharge (2009-10)
Kowal, J.; Nixon, T.; Aitken, N. and Braithwaite, N. St. J.
Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, 155(1) (pp. 145-151)
Electron plasma waves and plasma resonances (2009-02)
Franklin, R. N. and Braithwaite, N. St. J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 18(1) (pp. 1-4)
80 Years of Plasma (2009-02)
Franklin, R. N. and Braithwaite, N. St. J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 18(1) (pp. 1-3)
Displacement of charge and conduction current in collisionless planar sheaths during voltage transients (2008)
Braithwaite, N. St. J.; LauroTaroni, L.; Haas, F. A. and Turner, M. M.
Contributions to Plasma Physics, 48(5-7) (pp. 412-417)
On the use of a capacitive diaphragm gauge for dust detection in next-step fusion devices (2006-09)
Counsell, G.; de Vere, A. P. C.; Braithwaite, N St.J; Hillier, S. and Bjorkman, P.
Review of Scientific Instruments, 77(9) (pp. 093501-1)
Time resolved 2-D optical imaging of a pulsed unbalanced magnetron plasma (2006-05)
Bradley, J.W.; Clarke, G.C.B.; Braithwaite, N. St.J.; Bryant, P.M. and Kelly, P.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 15(2) (S44-S50)
Electron and ion sheath effects on a microwave 'hairpin' probe (2005-11-14)
Haas, F. A.; Al-Kuzee, J. and Braithwaite, N. St. J.
Applied Physics Letters, 87(201503)
Hairpin resonator probe measurements in RF plasmas (2005-11)
Piejak, R.B.; Al-Kuzee, J. and Braithwaite, N St.J
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 14(4) (pp. 734-743)
Optimization of plasma etch processes using evolutionary search methods with in situ diagnostics (2004-11)
Al-Kuzee, J.; Matsuura, T.; Goodyear, A.; Nolle, L.; Hopgood, A. A.; Picton, P. D. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 13(4) (pp. 612-622)
Plasma processing of materials at the atomic scale (2004-08-31)
Braithwaite, N.St.J. and Matsuura, T.
Contributions to Plasma Physics, 44(5-6) (pp. 478-484)
Analysis of the excited argon atoms in the GEC RF reference cell by means of one-dimensional PIC simulations (2004-08-21)
Lauro-Taroni, L.; Turner, M.M. and Braithwaite, N.St.J.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 37(16) (pp. 2216-2222)
The Influence of diffusion of fluorine compounds for silicon lateral etching (2004-07-01)
Verdonck, Partick; Goodyear, Alec and Braithwaite, Nicholas St John
Thin Solid Films, 459(1-2) (pp. 141-144)
Formation of misfit dislocations in strained-layer GaAs/InxGa1–xAs/GaAs heterostructures during postfabrication thermal processing (2003-12-15)
Liu, X.W.; Hopgood, A.A.; Usher, B.F.; Wang, H. and Braithwaite, N.St.J.
Journal of Applied Physics, 94(12) (pp. 7496-7501)
Transient RF self-bias in electropositive and electronegative plasmas (2003-11-21)
Braithwaite, N.St.J.; Sheridan, T.E. and Boswell, R.W.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 36(22) (pp. 2837-2844)
The electron distribution function at an RF planar probe due to an incident electron beam (2002-11)
Haas, F.A.; Goodyear, A. and Braithwaite, N.St.J
Plasma Sources Science and Technology, 11(4) (pp. 544-549)
Automated control of an actively compensated Langmuir probe system using simulated annealing (2002-07)
Nolle, L.; Goodyear, A.; Hopgood, A.A.; Picton, P.D. and Braithwaite, N.St.J
Knowledge-Based Systems, 15(5-6) (pp. 349-354)
Importance of fluorine surface diffusion for plasma etching of silicon (2002-05)
Verdonck, P.; Goodyear, A.; Mansano, R.D.; Barroy, P.R.J. and Braithwaite, N St.J.
Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B: Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures, 20(3) (pp. 791-796)
Sheath reversal during transient radio-frequency bias (2002-02)
Barroy, P.R.J.; Goodyear, A. and Braithwaite, N.St.J
IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 30(issue) (pp. 148-149)
The Role of ions in the plasma polymerization of allylamine (2001-06)
Beck, Alison J.; Candan, Sennur; Short, Robert D.; Goodyear, Alec and Braithwaite, Nick St.J.
Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 105(24) (pp. 5730-5736)
Physics of Radio-Frequency Plasmas (2011-02)
Chabert, Pascal and Braithwaite, Nicholas
ISBN : 9780521763004 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge
Experimentation not simulation: learning about physics in the virtual world (2014)
Peachey, Anna; Withnail, Greg and Braithwaite, Nick
In: DeCoursey, Christina and Garrett, Shana eds. Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds (pp. 191-216)
ISBN : 978-1-84888-231-7 | Publisher : Inter-Disiplinary Press | Published : Oxford
Lets make a strain gauge: a summer school laboratory activity in electronic materials (1991)
Weaver, G. H.; Braithwaite, N St. J. and Gagg, C.
In: Smith, R. A. ed. Innovative teaching in engineering (pp. 288-292)
ISBN : 0-13-457607-1 | Publisher : Ellis Horwood | Published : Chichester, England
Delivering authentic online practical science teaching – geoscience perspectives from the OpenScience Laboratory (2017-01-11)
Argles, T. W.; Brodeur, M. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
In : 35th International Geological Congress (27 Aug - 04 Sep 2016, Cape Town, South Africa)
An internet of laboratory things (2017)
Drysdale, Timothy D. and Braithwaite, N. St.J.
In : 2017 4th Experiment@International Conference ('17) (6-8 June 2017) (pp. 236-240)
Designing online laboratories for optimal effectiveness: undergraduate priorities for authenticity, sociability and metafunctionality (2015-06-17)
Brodeur, Marcus; Minocha, Shailey; Kolb, Ulrich and Braithwaite, Nicholas
In : 15th International Conference on Technology, Policy and Innovation (17-19 June 2015, The Open University, Milton Keynes)
Pedagogical advantages of 3D virtual field trips and the challenges for their adoption (2015-06-16)
Minocha, Shailey; Tilling, Steve; Argles, Tom; Braithwaite, Nick; Burden, David and Rock, James
In : Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG) Conference 2015 (15-17 June 2015, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
How effective is remote instruction for astrophysics? (2014-12)
Brodeur, Marcus; Kolb, Ulrich; Minocha, Shailey and Braithwaite, Nicolas
In : III Workshop on Robotic Autonomous Observatories (7-11 Oct 2013, Torremolinos, Spain) (pp. 133-134)
Teaching undergraduate astrophysics with PIRATE (2014-12)
Brodeur, Marcus; Kolb, Ulrich; Minocha, Shailey and Braithwaite, Nicholas
In : III Workshop on Robotic Autonomous Observatories (7-11 Oct 2013, Torremolinos, Spain) (pp. 129-132)
The OpenScience Laboratory: a globally available online lab at the cutting edge of practical science teaching (2013-06-13)
Garrow, Kat; Braithwaite, Nicholas; Richardson, Brian and Swithenby, Stephen
In : ED-MEDIA 2013: Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (26 June 2013, Victoria, Canada)
3D virtual geology field trips: opportunities and limitations (2013-04-17)
Argles, Tom; Richardson, Brian; Davies, Sarah; Minocha, Shailey and Braithwaite, Nick
In : HEA STEM: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2013: Where practice and pedagogy meet (17-18 April 2013, Birmingham)
Experimentation not simulation: Learning about physics in the virtual world (2012)
Peachey, Anna; Withnail, Greg and Braithwaite, N St.J
In : The Second Global Conference on Experiential Learning in Virtual Worlds (12-13 March 2012, Prague, Czech Republic)
Simulation of gas-grain collisions: a mechanism for chondrule formation (2011-09-08)
Morlock, A.; Sutton, Y. C.; Patel, M.; Braithwaite, N. St. J and Grady, M. M.
In : 74th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society (8-12 August 2011, London, UK)
Characteristics of a transition discharge in air through N2 spectroscopy (2011)
Johnson, P. C.; Sutton, Y.; Sharp, D.; Moore, J. and Braithwaite, N. St. J
In : TPW 8th Technological Plasma Workshop (6-7 January 2011, Bristol)
Even more chondrules born in plasma: simulation of gas-grain collisions (2011)
Morlock, A.; Sutton, Y. C.; Braithwaite, N. St.J. and Grady, M. M.
In : 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (7-11 March 2011, Houston, TX, USA)
Visualising gas heating from an RF plasma loudspeaker (2010-10)
Sutton, Y.; Naidis, G. V.; Johnson, P. C.; Sharp, D.; Moore, J. and Braithwaite, N. St.J
In : GEC & IRCP 2010 (Paris, France)
Chondrules born in plasma: laboratory simulations of circumstellar processes (2010-07)
Morlock, A.; Sutton, Y. C.; Braithwaite, N. St.J and Grady, M. M.
In : 73rd Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society (26-30 July 2010, New York City, USA) (A142)
Ausio sound reproduction by thermal expansion in an RF generated plasma (2010-03)
Sutton, Y.; Johnson, P. C.; Sharp, D.; Moore, J. and Braithwaite, N. St.J
In : Institute of Physics Plasma Physics Group Conference 2010 (March 2010)
Experiments in chondrule formation: simulations of gas-grain collisions using plasma arcs (2010-02-02)
Morlock, Andreas; Sutton, Yvonne; Braithwaite, N. St.J and Grady, Monica
In : Lunar and Planetary Society Meeting 2010 (March 2010, Houston)
Cylindrical RF discharge with free boundary at atmospheric pressure (2009-07)
Sutton, Y.; Naidis, G. V.; Johnson, P. C.; Moore, J.; Sharp, D. and Braithwaite, N. St.J
In : International Conference on Phenomena in Ionized Gases (17-19 July 2009, Cancun Mexico)
The effect of a cold atmospheric pressure plasma jet on DNA (2009)
Ptasińska, Sylwia; Bahnev, Blagovest; Stypczynska, Agnieszka; Bowden, Mark; Braithwaite, Nicholas St.J. and Mason, Nigel J.
In : XXVI International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions, Journal of Physics: Conference Series (22-28 July 2009, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA)
VUV irradiation studies of plasmid DNA in aqueous solution (2008)
Smialek, M. A.; Hoffman, S. V.; Folkard, M.; Prise, K. M.; Shuker, D. E. G.; Braithwaite, N. St. J. and Mason, N. J.
In : Radiation Damage in Biomolecular Systems (19-22 July 2007, Dublin) (p 12020)
Application of semiconductor industry cleaning technologies for Genesis sample collectors (2006-03)
Sestak, S.; Franchi, I.; Verchovsky, A.B.; Al-Kuzee, J.; Braithwaite, N St.J and Burnett, D.S.
In : 37th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (13-17 March 2006, Houston, Texas, USA)
Surface activation and direct bonding of semiconductor wafers (2009-09-16)
Braithwaite, Nick; Al-Kuzee, Jafar; Lima, Paulo and Kowal, Jan