Professor RC Darton 
Department of Engineering Science 
University of Oxford 
Parks Road 
Oxford  OX1 3PJ


Research Interests
I am interested in the concept of Sustainable Development, and how it can be applied to change the way we do things. It is important to be able to measure the sustainability of processes, projects and products, which means looking at impacts in the environmental, social and economic domains. I have been working on measuring tools, particularly Sustainability Indicators and Metrics, and how they can be chosen in particular cases. We have been studying palm oil production (an agricultural process), and the UK car fleet (essentially a service) to develop and test these methods. In November 2005 I gave the Hartley lecture at the Royal Society on the subject of Sustainability Metrics.

My other research interests include dynamic surface effects at gas/liquid interfaces. We have been looking at the adsorption of surfactant at expanding liquid surfaces using an overflowing cylinder apparatus  to examine Marangoni stresses. We have looked at the adsorption of surfactants at the surfaces of liquid jets, at exposure times down to a few milliseconds, which again reveals some interesting Marangoni effects. We have various research projects looking at foam - how it is stabilised, and how to measure it, in surfactant and biological systems, how to destroy it when it is unwanted, and how to use it in foam fractionation. We have a project looking at the use of biological systems to produce surfactant. Searching for ways to measure and characterise foams we developed optical tomography, as a way of recording cellular structures. Some of these structures can be viewed. There is also a stereo movie of a rotating bubble (needs viewing through red/green spectacles).

I am interested in aspects of water treatment, and am currently working on the problems of oestrogen in treated water. There is evidence that conventional treating plants can be engineered to remove oestrogens to a significant extent (tce article).

My other interests include distillation and absorption, particularly the aspects of mass transfer and hydrodynamics.

A list of papers illustrates my interests over the years.

Chemical Engineering at Oxford
The Department of Engineering Science initiated teaching in chemical engineering in 1992.  I have taught distillation and other separation processes, chemical thermodynamics, and process design and economics, as well as courses on Sustainable Development and Energy. 

The Institution of Chemical Engineers
The Oxford undergraduate course is accredited by the
Institution of Chemical Engineers. I am a member of IChemE's Sustainability Subject Group and the Fluids Separations Subject Group,  and past-Chairman of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering Working Party on Separation Processes. In 2008/9 I was President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Some personal history

I graduated as a Chemical engineer from the University of Birmingham in 1970. I then did research for five years in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Cambridge, working on fluidisation and particulate systems, after which I joined Royal Dutch/Shell, as a research engineer at the laboratory in Amsterdam. Various jobs with Shell followed, both at Amsterdam and the Hague, where I was concerned with distillation design and trouble-shooting, with gas treating, and with a wide range of general chemical engineering problems. Lastly I was manager of the chemical engineering development group of Shell International Chemicals, in the Hague. 

In 1991 I returned to the UK, to the University of Oxford, to help set up the new course in chemical engineering, within the Department of Engineering Science. In 1999 I was Stephen Anderman visiting lecturer at Mendeleev University and Kurnakov Institute, Moscow, and the next year at the University of St Petersburg. From July to September 2001 I held a Royal Academy of Engineering: Engineering Foresight Award at the University of Sydney, where I worked with Prof Jim Petrie and developed some ideas about sustainability metrics. This was a brilliant introduction to Australasia, and in 2003 I returned as the first “University of Canterbury visiting Oxford Fellow”, at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch (NZ). I am a Fellow of Keble College which you can see in the background of the picture at the top of this page. In 2000 I was elected an honorary member of the Czech Society of Chemical Engineers, and to the Royal Academy of Engineering, and to a Professorship in Engineering Science.

From 2004 to 2009 I was Head of the Department of Engineering Science, which was a very busy period, with many new buildings, new appointments and other developments. The Department celebrated its Centenary in 2008 with a number of events including a splendid Garden Party for Alumni, which was held at Keble College.

From 2000 to 2005 I was a Vice-President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, responsible for Qualifications (membership and accreditation) issues. In May 2007 I was elected Deputy-President, and then President for the year 2008-2009.In 2010 I will become President of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering, for a two year term of office. The Federation represents some 150 000 engineers in around 40 countries of Europe.







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