Special issue of Surface Engineering celebrates life and achievements of Tom Bell

7 Jan 2010

Professor Bell made internationally recognised contributions to the development of surface engineering and had an outstanding ability to transfer these innovations to industrial applications, effectively bridging academia and industry. A key insight was the approach of designing the substrate and surface (coating) of a component or device as an integrated system, to provide a level of overall performance that neither could achieve alone, which implied the need for surface engineers to be involved at as early a stage in the design process as possible.

Articles in the special issue (2010, Vol. 25, Issues 1–2) cover many of the areas in which Professor Bell contributed over the course of his career, including, among others:

  • low temperature plasma enhanced diffusion and coating processes
  • the expanded austenite (‘S’) phase on stainless steels
  • duplex surface treatments (combining typically a bulk treatment such as induction hardening with a hard coating to enhance performance)
  • surface engineering of titanium to enhance wear performance (e.g. for automotive applications)
  • bio-tribological surface engineering systems
  • modelling of contact stresses for surface engineering design
  • surface engineering with reduced environmental impact
  • micro- and nanoscale mechanical testing


The authors include many of Professor Bell’s former colleagues and collaborators, and his sons Thomas and Gerard who have followed their father into surface engineering research. Two papers report work ongoing at the time of Professor Bell’s death.

Tom Bell began his career at the University of Liverpool, moving to the University of Birmingham as Hanson Professor of Metallurgy in 1981, a position he continued to hold until his death. He had a long history of collaboration with researchers in China, going back to the 1970s and the organisation of the Shanghai Heat Treatment ’83 conference. In 2007, he became full professor and director of the International Surface Engineering Research and Development Centre at Xi’an Jiaotong University. His commercial expertise in technology transfer and exploitation was reflected in a long association with Bodycote International, which he served as a non-executive director from 1983 to 2005, and extensive consultancy with many other organisations. His was intimately involved in the foundation of the International Federation of Heat Treatment and Surface Engineering (IFHTSE), uniquely serving two terms as President (1983–84 and 2000–01). In 2007 he launched International Heat Treatment and Surface Engineering, a new journal promoting technology transfer that brings together a partnership of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, IFHTSE, Shanghai Jioatong University and the Chinese Heat Treatment Society. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute of Materials and a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering in 2001 – only the second UK citizen to receive this honour.

A complete list of Professor Bell’s publications is appended to Dr Dong’s editorial introducing the issue and a full obituary appeared in the May 2008 issue of Surface Engineering.

Surface Engineering, published by Maney on behalf of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, is edited by Dr T. S. Sudarshan, the co-Editor with Tom Bell from 1997 to 2008. The journal publishes original research on the theory and practice of this enabling technology. Coverage includes any aspect of the use of surface engineering to produce surface-substrate systems having mechanical, tribological, chemical and/or functional properties that cannot be achieved from the individual components alone. Design, surface modification technologies and process control, and the characterisation and properties of the final system or component, including quality control and non-destructive examination, are important components of the coverage.

Maney Publishing is an independent publishing company specialising in academic journals in materials science and engineering, the humanities, and health science. Based in the UK and USA, Maney is the official publisher for the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

IOM3 members have free online access to the Institute’s refereed journals via Ingenta. See http://www.iom3.org/content/journal-access for further information. Please note that you must be logged in to this site in order to access journal content.

Further information
Contact Naomi Asantewa-Sechereh, Maney Publishing, tel: +44 (0)207 451 7308.