Charles Brown
Charles K. Brown
Polymer Science & Materials Chemistry

Mr. Brown specializes in the application of systems engineering principles and materials characterization techniques to solve complex failure analysis and design problems. He has investigated failures in aerospace systems, fuel production processes, electrical components, and consumer products. He has also assisted in the design of products through material property testing and manufacturing process verification.

Mr. Brown is proficient in material characterization techniques including spectroscopy (FTIR, UV-vis), GC-MS, ICP-AES, SEM-EDS, and white-light profilometry. In his research, he has developed instrumentation using off the shelf and custom-designed components to enable novel test methods.

Prior to joining Exponent, Mr. Brown worked as the laboratory manager of an analytical laboratory specializing in regulatory compliance testing, product design, and failure analysis consulting. As a graduate researcher, he studied frost formation rates on surfaces of differing free energy. He is familiar with the state of the art in anti-frosting materials and frost rate measurement techniques.


  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, 2011
  • B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Knox College, 2007

Prior Experience

Laboratory Manager, Lab/Cor Materials, 2007–2010

Professional Affiliations

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Project Experience

Consumer Product Testing

An importer of children’s products needed their catalog of products to be certified for compliance with new regulations from the CPSA. Mr. Brown developed XRF and FTIR methods to screen samples likely to fail to decrease cost to the client. Products which passed screening were tested for compliance using GC-MS and ICP-AES.

A manufacturer of scientific equipment was experiencing a quality control problem wherein trace levels of phthalates contaminated their products during manufacture. Mr. Brown developed a method to quantify the concentration of diethyl phthalate to parts per trillion levels and determine where it is entering the manufacturing process.

An importer of cosmetics was concerned that their product may contain elevated levels of formaldehyde. Mr. Brown adapted a method to measure the formaldehyde concentration by UV-vis spectroscopy.

A producer of screen printed apparel requested that their inks be tested for phthalate concentration. Mr. Brown worked with the client to design samples that allowed lower-cost testing by GC-MS than typical.

Product and Process Design

A manufacturer of biodiesel needed to determine whether their products met specifications. Mr. Brown adapted and executed ASTM methods for free and total glyceride, cloud point, flashpoint, and viscosity to determine if the manufacturing process needed to be altered to meet specifications.

A specialty textiles manufacturer requested help in meeting design goals for an underwater electrically heated glove. Mr. Brown devised tests for the electro-thermal properties of candidate heating elements and created a computer simulation of dissipated heat.

A manufacturer of pole oils was developing a new process and requested that the dioxin levels in their material be quantified at different stages. Mr. Brown developed and executed methods to quantify the dioxin levels by GC-MS to expedite the client’s process development.

Failure Analysis

A consumer of Jet A requested that their fuel and fuel filters be tested for trace contaminants. Mr. Brown developed and executed procedures for the testing of fuel samples and fuel filters to identify any deviation from the fuel supplier’s specifications.

An aerospace company sought to understand the failure mechanics of a prototype cast aluminum aircraft fuel controller. Mr. Brown used finite element simulation and SEM to determine sites of crack formation and directions of propagation, allowing the company to strengthen their part.


  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, 2011
  • B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Knox College, 2007