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Ian Thompson Professor of Engineering Science


Ian Thompson BSc, PhD, FRSA

Professor of Engineering Science

Fellow of St Edmund Hall

TEL: 01865 283789


Professor Thompson trained in ecology and specialised in microbial ecology for his PhD investigating community dynamics in soils.

He worked in Shell and then moved to Oxford NERC Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, where he become the Head of Environmental Biotechnology.

Ian joined the Department in 2008 when he became Professor of Engineering Science and established the Environmental Biotechnology Group.

Research Interests

Professor Thompson’s group focus their research on the development of sustainable methods for generating clean energy from waste, clean-up of contaminated wastewaters/soils and recovery of resources from end-of-pipe production processes.

This focuses largely on exploiting microbial processes and assembly of consortia for transforming potential environmental contaminants so they are harmless, or converting them to high value products such as bioplastics and bioenergy.

A particular area of expertise is the application physical and chemical applications such as ultrasound and nanomaterials to optimise engineered microbial processes, and scale-up for real world and commercial applications.

A key area of interest is the rethinking of the design of current Anaerobic Digestors, which have changed little in decades and are inefficient, so they resemble more closely the processes occurring in a cow’s rumen, which have significantly higher bioconversion rates.

Research Projects

  • EPSRC. Liquid Fuel and bioEnergy Supply from CO2 Reduction: A £2.3M project combining electrochemistry and microbiology to convert CO2 and wastewater organics to high value products such as alkanes and bioplastics.
  • Reinventing the agriculture-energy nexus in Africa: In association with the Oxford University Martin School, this £996,000 programme is worklng to generate biogas and high value volatile acids from dryland plants in Africa.
  • Generation of biogas and volatile fatty aids from Crassulacean Acide Metabolism plants
  • Ultrasound manipulation of microbial communities.

Significant Publications

Chan A, Ager D & Thompson IP (2013). Resolving the mechanism of bacterial inhibition by secondary metabolites employing combination of whole-cell biosensors. J of Microbiological Methods 93, 209-217.

Lauwers J, Appels L, Thompson IP et al (2013) Mathematical modelling of anaerobic digestion of biomass and waste: power and limitations. Progress in Energy & Combustion 39, 383-402.

Lin WF, YU ZS, Zhang HX & Thompson IP (2014) Diversity and dynamics of microbial communities at each step of a treatment plant for water generation. Water Research 52, 218-230.

Guo H, Yu Z & Thompson IP (2014). A contribution of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis to the biogenic coal bed methane reserves of Southern Qinshui Basin, China. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology 21,

Mason MP, Glover K, Smith JAC & Thompson IP (2015). The potential of CAM crops as a globally significant bioenergy resource: moving from ‘fuel or food’ to fuel and more food’. Energy & Environmental Science 8, 2320-2329.

Thill PG, Ager DK, Vojnovic B, Scott T & Thompson IP (2016). Hybrid biological, electron beam and iron nanoparticles for treatment of metal working fluids. Water Research 93, 214-221.

Ortega-Calvo JJ, Jimenez-Sanchez C, Pratarolo P, Pullin H, Scott TB & Thompson IP (2016). Tactic response of bacteria to zero-valent iron nanoparticles. Environmental Pollution 13, 438-445.

Adapa LM, Azimi Y, Singh S, Pocelli D & Thompson IP (2016). Comparative study of chemical and physical methods for distinguishing between passive and metabolically active mechanisms of water contaminant removal by biofilms. Water Research 101, 574-581.

Chan AC, Cadena MB, Townley HE, Fricker MD & Thompson IP (2017). Effective delivery of volatile biocides employing mesoporous silicates for treating biofilms. J. of the Royal Society Interface 14, 126, 20160650.

Song Y, Kaster A-K, Vollmers J, Song Y, Davidson PA, Frentrup M, Preston GM, Thompson IP, Murrell JC, Yin H, Hunter CN & Huang WE (2017) Single-cell genomics based on Raman sorting reveals novel carotenoid-containing bacteria in the Red Sea. Microbial Biotechnology 10, 125-137.

Zhang Y, Yu Z, Zhang H & Thompson IP (2017). Microbial distribution and variation in produced water from separators to storage tanks of shale gas wells in Sichuan Basin, China. Environmental Science: Water Research Technology 3, 340-351.

Azimi Y & Thompson IP (2017) Phosphorus depletion as green alternative to biocides for controlling biodegradation of metal working fluids. Environmental Science & Technology 51, 5695-5702.

Rampley CPN, Davidson PA, Qian P, Preston GM, Hunter CN, Thompson IP, Wu LJ & Huang WE (2017).
Development of SimCells as a novel 7 / 185 chassis for functional biosensors. Scientific Reports 7, 7261.

Song Y, Cui Li, Siles Lopez JA, Xu JB, Zhu YG, Thompson IP & Huang WE (2017). Raman-Deuterium isotope probing for in-situ identification of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in Thames River. Scientific Reports 7, 16648.

Jing XY, Gou HL, Gong YH, Su XL, Xu L, Ji YT, Song YZ, Thompson IP, Xu J and Huang WE (2018). Raman-activated cell sorting and metagenomic sequencing revealing carbon-fixing bacteria in the ocean. Environmental Microbiology 20, 2241-2255.

Qiong Zhang, Amor K, Galer SJG, Thompson IP and Porcelli (2018). Variations of stable isoptope fractionation during bacterial chromium reduction processes and their implications. Chemical Geology 481 155-164

Cadena MB, Preston GM, Van der Hoorn RA, Townley HE & Thompson IP (2018). Species-specific antimicrobial activity of essential oil and enhancement in mesoporous silica nanoparticles. Industrial Crops and Products 112, 582-590.