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

Addressing the challenges of safe water production: Professor Nidal Hilal publishes new book on Boron Separation Processes

Find out more


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


Research theses supervised


  • 2013 - The electro spinning of novel membranes used in water treatment to minimise biofouling (1st Supervisor: Dr Christopher Wright)
  • 2012 - 'A Novel Hybrid Ion Exchange/Nanofiltration process for water desalination' (2nd Supervisor: Dr Darren Oatley-Radcliffe)
  • 2012 - 'A Novel Hybrid Ion Exchange/Nanofiltration process for water desalination' (2nd Supervisor: Dr Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2011 - Enhancement of membrane flux and properties by ozone and advanced oxidation processes for water treatment (1st Supervisor: Dr Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2011 - Understanding the role of charge and charge development in nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes (1st Supervisor: Dr Darren Oatley-Radcliffe)
  • 2010 - 'Boron Removal from Saline Water' (2nd Supervisor: Dr Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2010 - Novel ozonation systemfor the removal of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs): pilot plant studies (1st 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' (1st Supervisor: Dr Chedly Tizaoui)
  • 2009 - 'Activated unsaturated sand filter as an alternative technology to remove copper, manganese, zinc and nickel from waters' (1st Supervisor: Dr Chedly Tizaoui)


  • 2010 - Heterogeneous catalytic ozonation for the degradation of organic compounds (1st 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