Professor Nidal Hilal

Professor Nidal Hilal

Nidal Hilal


Professor, College of Engineering


Specialist Subjects: Water Treatment, Desalination, Membrane Technology, Engineering Applications of Atomic Force Microscopy, Fluidisation Engineering

DSc Eng, PhD, MSc, PGCAP, BEng, Euro Ing, CEng, FIChemE, FLSW

Director of the Centre for Water Advanced Technologies and Environmental Research (CWATER)

Editor-in-Chief, Desalination
(The International Journal on the Science and Technology of Desalting and Water Purification)

See a short biography on Professor Nidal Hilal

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Research interests lie broadly in the identification of innovative and cost-effective solutions to real world process engineering problems within the fields of water treatment, membrane technology and the engineering applications of atomic force microscopy.

Developed a highly successful research portfolio pursuing high quality curiosity-driven and strategically significant research. Established a very wide range of international research collaborations.

Current research areas:

  • Water treatment
  • Desalination
  • Novel membrane separation processes
  • Membrane nanotechnology
  • Application of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to chemical and process engineering

Internationally recognised as a world-leader in developing and applying the force measurement capability of AFM to the study of membrane surfaces.
Research has produced several breakthrough innovations, including:

  • Development of novel membranes
  • Smallest AFM colloid probe reported in the literature
  • First AFM coated colloid probe technique
  • First AFM cell probe technique
  • First direct measurements of the interaction of single live cells with surfaces
  • First use of the atomic force microscope in meso-scale cavitation studies

All these techniques/technologies have widespread applications in process optimisation and the development of novel processes.
Highly active in finding multidisciplinary, collaborative applications of atomic force microscopy and process engineering. For example, current projects range from rheology of colloidal suspensions and superspreading with nano-scale interactions to fabrication of re-usable materials based on mineral particulates. This approach has been highly successful in attracting both significant funding from EPSRC and industrial interest.

Selected publications

  • M. W. Hakami, C. Tizaoui, V. Kochkodan, N. Hilal, Effect of Hydrodynamic Operations, Salinity, and Heavy Metals on HA Removal by Microfiltration Ceramic Tubular Membrane, Separation Science and Technology, 2013, 48, 4, [ISSN:0149-63951520-5754], [DOI: 10.1080/01496395.2012.710701]
  • Abdullah Alkhudhiri, Naif Darwish, Nidal Hilal, Produced water treatment: Application of Air Gap Membrane Distillation, Desalination, 2013, 309, pp.46, [ISSN:00119164], [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.09.017]
  • A. Y. Zahrim, N. Hilal, C. Tizaoui, Tubular nanofiltration of highly concentrated C.I. Acid Black 210 dye, Water Science & Technology, 2013, 67, 4, pp.901, [ISSN:0273-1223], [DOI: 10.2166/wst.2012.638]
  • Ali Farhat, Farrukh Ahmad, Nidal Hilal, Hassan A. Arafat, Boron removal in new generation reverse osmosis (RO) membranes using two-pass RO without pH adjustment, Desalination, 2013, 310, pp.50, [ISSN:00119164], [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.10.003]
  • Nor Faizah Razali, Abdul Wahab Mohammad, Nidal Hilal, Choe Peng Leo, Javed Alam, Optimisation of polyethersulfone/polyaniline blended membranes using response surface methodology approach, Desalination, 2013, 311, pp.182, [ISSN:00119164], [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.11.033]
  • Salem Alzahrani, A.W. Mohammad, N. Hilal, Pauzi Abdullah, Othman Jaafar, Comparative study of NF and RO membranes in the treatment of produced water II: Toxicity removal efficiency, Desalination, 2013, [ISSN:00119164], [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.12.014]
  • Elena Guillen-Burrieza, Rinku Thomas, Bilal Mansoor, Daniel Johnson, Nidal Hilal, Hassan Arafat, Effect of dry-out on the fouling of PVDF and PTFE membranes under conditions simulating intermittent seawater membrane distillation (SWMD), Journal of Membrane Science, 2013, 438, [ISSN:03767388], [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2013.03.014]
  • M.N. Abu Seman, Nidal Hilal, M. Khayet, UV-photografting modification of NF membrane surface for NOM wfouling reduction, Desalination and Water Treatment, 2013, [ISSN:1944-39941944-3986], [DOI: 10.1080/19443994.2013.774113]
  • Victor Kochkodan, Daniel J. Johnson, Nidal Hilal, Polymeric membranes: Surface modification for minimizing (bio)colloidal fouling, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2013, [ISSN:00018686], [DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2013.05.005]
  • Hasan Al Abdulgader, Victor Kochkodan, Nidal Hilal, Hybrid ion exchange - pressure driven membrane processes in water treatment: A review, Separation and Purification Technology, 2013, [ISSN:13835866], [DOI: 10.1016/j.seppur.2013.05.052]
  • Nidal Hilal, Comparison of two different UV-grafted nanofiltration membranes prepared for reduction of humic acid fouling using acrylic acid and N-vinylpyrrolidone, Desalination, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.10.031]
  • Nidal Hilal, Membrane distillation: A comprehensive review, Desalination, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2011.08.027]
  • Nidal Hilal, Treatment of high salinity solutions: Application of air gap membrane distillation, Desalination, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2011.08.056]
  • Nidal Hilal, Copper removal from aqueous solutions using nano-scale diboron trioxide/titanium dioxide (B2O3/TiO2) adsorbent, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2012, 183, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2011.12.082]
  • Nidal Hilal, Formation and characterization of polyethersulfone membranes using different concentrations of polyvinylpyrrolidone, Desalination, 2012, 288, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2011.12.006]
  • Nidal Hilal, Atomic force microscopy of nanofiltration membranes: Effect of imaging mode and environment, Journal of Membrane Science, 2012, 389, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2011.11.023]
  • Nidal Hilal, Nanofiltration membrane modification by UV grafting for salt rejection and fouling resistance improvement for brackish water desalination, Desalination, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.03.020]
  • Nidal Hilal, Removal of heavy metal ions by nanofiltration, Desalination, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.05.022]
  • Nidal Hilal, The removal of copper in water using manganese activated saturated and unsaturated sand filters, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2012, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2012.08.013]
  • Abdullah Alkhudhiri, Naif Darwish, Nidal Hilal, Treatment of saline solutions using Air Gap Membrane Distillation: Experimental study, Desalination, 2012, [ISSN:00119164], [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2012.09.010]
  • Nidal Hilal, Modelling and optimization of coagulation of highly concentrated industrial grade leather dye by response surface methodology, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2010.11.108]
  • Nidal Hilal, Degradation of the antimicrobial triclocarban (TCC) with ozone, Chemical Engineering and Processing: Process Intensification, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cep.2011.03.007]
  • Nidal Hilal, Foreword, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2011.02.009]
  • Nidal Hilal, Boron removal from saline water: A comprehensive review, Desalination, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.05.012]
  • Nidal Hilal, Coagulation with polymers for nanofiltration pre-treatment of highly concentrated dyes: A review, Desalination, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.08.012]
  • Nidal Hilal, Development of antifouling properties and performance of nanofiltration membranes modified by interfacial polymerisation, Desalination, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.09.038]
  • Nidal Hilal, The express monitoring of organic pollutants in water with composite imprinted membranes, Journal of Membrane Science, 2011, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2011.04.033]
  • Nidal Hilal, Removal of Highly Concentrated Industrial Grade Leather Dye: Study on Several Flocculation and Sand Filtration Parameters, Separation Science and Technology, 2011, [DOI: 10.1080/01496395.2010.550596]
  • Nidal Hilal, Heavy Metals Removal Using Adsorption and Nanofiltration Techniques, Separation & Purification Reviews, 2011, [DOI: 10.1080/15422119.2011.558165]
  • Nidal Hilal, Critical wetting concentrations of trisiloxane surfactants, Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2009.07.030]
  • Nidal Hilal, Humic substance coagulation: Artificial neural network simulation, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2009.11.014]
  • Nidal Hilal, Editorial, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2009.11.015]
  • Nidal Hilal, Combined humic substance and heavy metals coagulation, and membrane filtration under saline conditions, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2009.11.037]
  • Nidal Hilal, Optimization of solar-powered reverse osmosis desalination pilot plant using response surface methodology, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.04.010]
  • Nidal Hilal, Analysis of deposition mechanism during ultrafiltration of glycerin-rich solutions, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.04.016]
  • Nidal Hilal, Polymeric membranes incorporated with metal/metal oxide nanoparticles: A comprehensive review, Desalination, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2010.11.033]
  • Nidal Hilal, Evaluation of several commercial synthetic polymers as flocculant aids for removal of highly concentrated C.I. Acid Black 210 dye, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.06.077]
  • Nidal Hilal, Nanofiltration thin-film composite polyester polyethersulfone-based membranes prepared by interfacial polymerization, Journal of Membrane Science, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2009.10.047]
  • Nidal Hilal, Response surface modeling and optimization of composite nanofiltration modified membranes, Journal of Membrane Science, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2009.11.031]
  • Nidal Hilal, Flux decline study during ultrafiltration of glycerin-rich fatty acid solutions, Journal of Membrane Science, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2010.01.033]
  • Nidal Hilal, Reduction of nanofiltration membrane fouling by UV-initiated graft polymerization technique, Journal of Membrane Science, 2010, [DOI: 10.1016/j.memsci.2010.03.014]
  • Victor Kochkodan, Nidal Hilal, Volodimir Melnik, Olga Kochkodan, Olexandr Vasilenko, Selective recognition of organic pollutants in aqueous solutions with composite imprinted membranes, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2010, 159, 2, [ISSN:00018686], [DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2010.06.006]
  • Nidal Hilal, Spreading of Aqueous Solutions of Trisiloxanes and Conventional Surfactants over PTFE AF Coated Silicone Wafers, Langmuir, 2009, [DOI: 10.1021/la803679y]
  • Nidal Hilal, Operating Conditions Corresponding to Optimal Final Properties of Activated Sludge Using the DOE and RSM Techniques, Separation Science and Technology, 2009, [DOI: 10.1080/01496390902881303]
  • Nidal Hilal, Spreading behaviour of aqueous trisiloxane solutions over hydrophobic polymer substrates, Colloid Journal, 2009, [DOI: 10.1134/S1061933X09030156]
  • Nidal Hilal, Reversible coagulation of colloidal suspension in shallow potential wells: Direct numerical simulation, Colloid Journal, 2009, [DOI: 10.1134/S1061933X09040127]
  • Daniel Johnson, Nidal Hilal, Kristian Waters, Kathryn Hadler, Jan Cilliers, Measurements of Interactions between Particles and Charged Microbubbles Using a Combined Micro- and Macroscopic Strategy, Langmuir, 2009, 25, 9, [ISSN:1520-5827], [DOI: 10.1021/la8038297]
  • Nina Kovalchuk, Victor Starov, Paul Langston, Nidal Hilal, Formation of stable clusters in colloidal suspensions, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2009, 147-148, [ISSN:00018686], [DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2008.11.001]
  • Nidal Hilal, Sensitivity analysis and faults diagnosis using artificial neural networks in natural gas TEG-dehydration plants, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2008, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2007.04.008]
  • Nidal Hilal, Artificial neural network simulation of combined humic substance coagulation and membrane filtration, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2008, [DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2007.10.005]
  • K.S. Lee, N. Ivanova, V.M. Starov, N. Hilal, V. Dutschk, Kinetics of wetting and spreading by aqueous surfactant solutions, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2008, 144, 1-2, [ISSN:00018686], [DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2008.08.005]
  • Nidal Hilal, Colloidal dynamics: Influence of diffusion, inertia and colloidal forces on cluster formation, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2008, [DOI: 10.1016/j.jcis.2008.06.017]
  • Nidal Hilal, A pilot-plant study of the adsorptive micellar flocculation process: Optimum design and operation, Separation and Purification Technology, 2008, [DOI: 10.1016/j.seppur.2007.08.013]
  • Nidal Hilal, Experimental Investigation on the Separation of Bentonite using Ceramic Membranes: Effect of Turbulence Promoters, Separation Science and Technology, 2008, [DOI: 10.1080/01496390701787438]
  • Nidal Hilal, Combined Humic Substance and Heavy Metals Agglomeration, and Membrane Filtration under Saline Conditions, Separation Science and Technology, 2008, [DOI: 10.1080/01496390801941091]
  • Nidal Hilal, Investigation of Kinetics and Mechanism Involved in the Biosorption of Heavy Metals on Activated Sludge, International Journal of Green Energy, 2008, [DOI: 10.1080/15435070802229068]
  • N Hilal, No title, 0, [DOI: 10.1016/j.wri.2013.06.001]
  • N Hilal, No title, 0, [DOI: 10.1016/j.desal.2013.06.016]
  • N Hilal, No title, 0, [DOI: 10.1016/j.seppur.2013.07.016]


  • EGCM36 - Desalination (13/14)

Research theses supervised


  • 2013 - The electro spinning of novel membranes used in water treatment to minimise biofouling (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Christopher Wright)
  • 2012 - Hybrid Ion-Exchange and Nanofiltration process (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2012 - Hybrid Ion-Exchange and Nanofiltration process (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Darren Oatley-Radcliffe)
  • 2011 - Enhancement of membrane flux and properties by ozone and advanced oxidation processes for water treatment (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2011 - Understanding the role of charge and charge development in nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Darren Oatley-Radcliffe)
  • 2010 - Boron removal from seawater (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2010 - Novel ozonation systemfor the removal of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs): pilot plant studies (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - Development of integrated nanofiltration system for highly concentrated dye removal (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - ''Treatment of saline solutions using air gap membrane distillation (AGMD)'' (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - 'Removal of heavy metals from a concentrated aqueous solution: adsorption and nanofiltration techniques' (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - ''Synthesis and characterisation of polyethersulfone membrane using different additives.'' (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - 'HA removal and fouling using tubular ceramic MF membranes combined with coagulation' (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - 'Activated unsaturated sand filter as an alternative technology to remove copper, manganese, zinc and nickel from waters' (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)


  • 2010 - Heterogeneous catalytic ozonation for the degradation of organic compounds (2nd Supervisor: Dr. Chedly Tizaoui)


  • 2010 - Critical review on brine disposal from desalination plants

Additional information

Academic awards

  • Awarded the Doctor of Science Degree (DSc), University of Wales, 2005

In recognition of an outstanding research contribution in the field of Scanning Probe Microscopy and Membrane Science and Technology

  • Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE)
  • Prestigious Kuwait Prize of Applied Science for Water Resources Development, 2005

This is the first time that the award has been made to an academic in a UK university. The prize was awarded by the Emir of Kuwait and Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) recognising Prof Hilal’s world-leading reputation for research earned in the fields of membrane technology and water treatment. This prize is one of the highest scientific honours which are awarded in the Middle East for intellectual achievement.


Editorship committees

  • Editor-in-Chief for the Desalination journal
  • Guest Editor for a special issue Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, 2011
  • Advisor for the Royal Society of New Zealand on Desalination, 2009-2010
  • Advisory board of Lifeboat Foundation
  • Chairman of the 1st International Conference on Desalination Using membrane technology, 7-10 April 2013, Sitges, Spain
  • Chairman of the 1st International Conference on Desalination and Environment – A Water Summit 28 October- 1 November 2011, Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Co-chairman of two pioneering international research events at the University of Oxford on Water and Membranes in 2006 and 2010
  • Major contributions to discussion panels on global water issues and Desalination for a number of science programmes including "Home Planet" and "The Material World" for BBC radio 4
  • Chair of Advisory Board for the Centre of Excellence in Desalination Technology (CEDT) in King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia. 2010 – 2011
  • Scientific Advisor of Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2008- 2009
  • Delivered 42 plenary, keynote lectures and invited lectures in institutions around the world
  • Member of the scientific committees in more than 50 international conferences
  • Member of editorial boards for many international journals including Wiley Encyclopedia of Membrane Science and Technology, Desalination and Water Treatment Journal, Membrane Water Treatment Journal and Journal of Arab Water World
  • Panel of referees for the Research Councils in the UK, Canada, Finland and Norway and for more than 40 international journals
  • Visiting Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Published work

  • Published a pioneering book “Atomic Force Microscopy and Process Engineering” by Elsevier (ISBN-13: 978-185617-517-3), 2009
  • Published a new book “Membrane Modification: Technology and Applications” by CRC Press (ISBN-13: 978-1439866351), 2011
  • Published around 300 articles in the refereed scientific literature
  • Published widely in highly reputable journals
  • Published 28 invited book chapters

The co-authors on many of his publications reflect the strong international links which Professor Nidal Hilal has established.

International Consortia and Collaborations

  • Consortia with 11 academic and industrial Partners on FP7 EU project “Development of the next generation membrane bioreactor system 2010-2013:Karlsruhe University- Germany, Swansea University, Institute for Membrane Technology-Italy, Foundation for Research and Technology – Greece, Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum Germany, Microdyn-Nadir Germany, Izmir Institute of Technology- Turkey, Al-Baath University – Syria, Central Metallurgical Research and Development Institute – Egypt, Centre de Biotechnologie de Sfax – Tunisia
  • Consortia with 2 Research Partners from the Petroleum Institute in UAE and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on a grant from the Middle East Desalination Research Centre, 2003-2006
  • Consortia with 2 Research Partners from Jordan University of Science & Technology and Sultan Qaboos University in Oman on a grant from the Middle East Desalination Research Centre, 2003-2007
  • Consortia with 3 Research Partners from University of Leeds, Imperial College and University of Reading on a grant from EPSRC, 2005-2007
  • Consortia with Ukrainian Academy of Science on a grant from The Wellcome Trust, 2003
  • Consortia with Loughborough University on a grant from EPSRC, 2005-2008
  • Consortia with 2 Research Partners from Ukrainian Academy of Science and National University of Ukraine on a parliamentary grant from The Royal Society, 2003-2004
  • Consortia with Loughborough University, Universdad Complutense, Madrid and Dow Corning, USA on a grant from EPSRC, 2006-2009


  • Director of the Centre for Water Advanced Technologies and Environmental Research (CWATER) at Swansea University

This centre is internationally recognised for research into potable and waste-water treatment technologies, including desalination, advanced oxidation, membranes, and colloid and interface-based technologies. 

  • Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, 2013.
  • Director of the Centre for Clean Water Technologies at the University of Nottingham, 2003 until July 2010