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Nick Hankins BA MA (Cantab) PhD CEng FIChemE MRSC PGCAP

Associate Professor of Engineering Science

Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall

TEL: 01865 273179


Nick went up to Trinity College, University of Cambridge,  in 1981, and graduated with an MA from the Chemical Engineering Tripos in 1985.  He then completed a PhD at the University of Oklahoma in 1989, working in the area of colloidal-based enhanced oil recovery.

He  worked from 1989 to 1991 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Colloid Chemistry at the University of Bristol, where he studied the  fundamental origin of  wettability changes in petroleum reservoirs. From 1991 to 1993, Nick was  a Visiting Scholar in the Fenske Laboratory at  the Pennsylvania State University, where he investigated   the propagation and fate of disturbances in multi-component fractionation columns.

In 1993, Nick joined Shell Research at their Exploration and Production Laboratory in the Hague, Holland. As a Project leader, he developed physical and chemical technologies for well stimulation to support  operating companies globally. In 1996, he moved to Aspen Technology in Cambridge UK  as an Applications Engineer, and was engaged in the modelling and dynamic simulation of adsorption processes.

Nick was appointed a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering  at the University of Nottingham in 1999. He was appointed an Associate Professor at the Department of Engineering Science in Oxford in 2005,  and at the same time was elected to a Fellowship of Lady Margaret Hall.

Nick leads the research activity  at the Laboratory for Sustainable Water Engineering at The University of Oxford. This focusses on developing sustainable engineering processes for clean water acquisition, recycle and reuse in a world of diminishing resources, climate change and the drive to reduce environmental and carbon footprints.

External Positions and Learned Societies

Nick is Joint Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Water Process Engineering.

He sits on the editorial board of three other journals: Water, Membrane Water Treatment, and Desalination and Water Journal.

He is a Chartered Engineer in the UK, and a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

He was previously the Oxford Director of the Singapore-Peking-Oxford Research enterprise.

Research Interests

Nick’s area of research expertise lies in colloidal and interfacial processes, and  the application of colloids, surfactants, interfaces and membranes in process engineering.

The Laboratory for Sustainable Water Engineering research activity focuses on three main areas: the supply of clean, potable drinking water; low energy desalination of brackish and sea-water; and industrial and domestic wastewater  processing for recycle and reuse, with the recovery of valuable resources  such as metallic ions and energy.

Underpinning all of this work is the application of colloidal and interfacial chemistry and engineering, nanotechnology and membrane process technology. The work is highly interdisciplinary, and involves engineering, microbiology, chemistry, mathematics, and the social sciences.

See also: sustainable water engineering, membrane science and technology.

Current Projects

Key projects include:

  • Investigating the treatment of industrial process effluents for the recycle and reuse of both water and dilute, dissolved components such as heavy or precious metals. This exploits  novel and selective complexation-flocculation techniques which require no membrane or fixed bed.
  • Design and optimisation of high retention Forward Osmosis Membrane Bioreactors to treat municipal water, and which are integrated  with  membrane distillation for water recovery and reuse.
  • Creating an effective polymeric draw agent for forward osmosis which confers high osmotic pressure, low toxicity, and low energy of recovery.
  • Developing an in-situ ‘Living Filter’ in potable water reservoirs to remove algae by microscopic organisms from  the intake to the treatment works.
  • Optimization of an Ultra-Filtration process which combines a pre-coagulation step for the removal of Natural Organic Matter from upland raw waters.
  • Development of high recovery desalination processes using pressure and osmotically driven membrane technologies. The goal is to develop low-cost, zero-liquid discharge desalination technologies that minimise environmental impact.
  • Membrane development and process optimisation to mitigate membrane deformation and fouling in pressure and osmotically driven membrane processes used for dewatering of hypersaline brine steams.
  • Expanding the application range of membrane-based solutions to other industries in which hypersaline streams must be dewatered, such as in solution mining or the energy sector.

DPhil Opportunities

I am  interested in hearing from dedicated potential research students who have interests in any of our research areas.

See also:



Removal and Recovery of a Charged Species

Inventors: Nick Hankins, Licheng Shen.

European Patent Application No. 15800906.8 (Oxford University Innovation Limited). Granted on 28th April 2021.

The invention relates to a process for removing and recovering a charged anionic species from solution, such as a metallic anion.

Books & Book Chapters



Nicholas Hankins and Rajindar Singh (Editors): “Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment”, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-444-63312-5.


Book Chapters


Membranes & Sustainable Water Processing

Rajindar Singh and Nicholas P. Hankins: “Introduction to Membrane Processes for Water Treatment”, in “Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment”, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2016, pp.15-52.

Li-Cheng Shen and Nicholas P. Hankins: “Forward Osmosis for Sustainable Water Treatment”, in “Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment”, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2016, pp.55-76.

Li-Cheng Shen and Nicholas P. Hankins and Rajindar Singh: “Surfactant and Polymer-Based Technologies for Water Treatment”, in “Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment”, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2016, pp.249-276.

Sher Jamal Khan, Nicholas P. Hankins and Li-Cheng Shen: “Submerged and Attached Growth Membrane Bioreactors and Forward Osmosis Membrane Bioreactors for Wastewater Treatment”, in “Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment”, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2016, pp.277-296.


Sustainable Water Processing

A.T. Castro-Castellon, M.J.Chipps, J.M.R.Hughes, and N.P.Hankins: “ Living-Filter: an in-Reservoir Biofiltration System for Phytoplankton Reduction at the Abstraction Point”, in Progress in  Slow Sand and Alternative Biological Filtration Processes: Further Development and Applications. Nobutada Nakamoto, Nigel Graham, M Robin Collins and Rolf Gimbel (eds.) 2014, pp. 405-410.

N Hankins, N Hilal and TP Nguyen: “Synthetic Sludge as a Physical and Chemical Analogue of Real Sludge in the Activated Sludge Process”, published in ‘Sludge: Types, Treatment Processes and Disposal.’ NOVA Science Publishers, Hauppauge, New York.  2009, Chapter 1, 1-32.



N.P.Hankins and F.Jegede: “Design and Optimization of Waste Reduction by Adsorption with ADSIMTM” in ‘Emerging Separation and Separative Reaction Technologies for Process Waste Reduction – Adsorption and Membrane Systems’. Editors: P P Radecki, J C Crittenden, D R Shonnard, J L Bullock. American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New York. 1999, 275-277.

N.P.Hankins, J.M.Haynes and S.D.Lubetkin: "On the Measurement of Disjoining Pressure Isotherms in Thin Electrolyte Films between Oils and Silica" in ‘Physical Chemistry of Colloids and Interfaces in Oil Production’. H.Toulhoat, J.Lecourtier (Editors) and Editions Technip, Paris. 1992, 59-66.

Journal Papers


Membrane Science & Technology Publications


Sustainable Water Process Engineering Publications




Pingqian Shen, Nicholas Hankins and Stephan Jefferis: “Selection of Colloidal Silica Grouts with Respect to Gelling and Erosion Behaviour”, Geosciences. 2017, 7, 6.

A.C. Mitropoulos, K.L. Stefanopoulos, E.P.  Favvas, E. Vansant, and N.P. Hankins, N.P: “On the formation of nanobubbles in vycor porous glass during the desorption of halogenated hydrocarbons”, Scientific Reports, 2015, Volume 5, 10943, 5 June 2015.

B.Bai, N.Hankins, M.Hey and S.Kingman, “In Situ Mechanistic Study of SDS Adsorption on Hematite for Optimised Froth Flotation”, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research. 2004, 43(17), 5326-5338.

N.P.Hankins and J.H.Harwell: “Application of Coherence Theory to a Reservoir Enhanced Oil Recovery Simulator”, Journal of  Petroleum Science and Engineering. 2004, 42(1), 29-55.

N.P.Hankins and F.G.Helfferich: "On the Concept and Application of ‘Partial Coherence’ in Non-linear Wave Propagation". Chemical Engineering Science. 1999, 54(6), 741-764.

N.P.Hankins and J.H.Harwell: "Case Studies for the Feasibility of Sweep Improvement in Surfactant-Assisted Water-flooding". Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering. 1997, 17(1-2), 41-62.

N.P.Hankins, J.H.O’Haver, and J.H.Harwell: "Modeling Effects of pH and Counterions on Surfactant Adsorption at the Oxide/Water Interface". Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research. 1996, 35(9), 2844-2855.

Teaching Interests

I teach or tutor the following subjects on the undergraduate course in Engineering Science:

Chemical Engineering Design;

Chemical Product Design;

Fluid Mechanics and Dynamics;

Engineering and Chemical Thermodynamics;

Reactor Design;

Hazards and Safety;

Chemical Processes Laboratory;

Transport Phenomena Laboratory;

Colloid and Interfacial Chemistry.