Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research

Staff Profile

Professor Ian Metcalfe

Professor of Chemical Engineering


Professor Ian Metcalfe is a Professor of Chemical Engineering for the School of Engineering at University of Newcastle.


  • 1983-87 Princeton University, Ph.D., Chemical Engineering
  • 1982-83 Princeton University, M.A., Chemical Engineering
  • 1979-82 Imperial College, B.Sc.(Eng.), A.C.G.I., First Class Honours, Chemical Engineering

Previous Positions

  • 2001-04 Professor of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, UMIST and then School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, University of Manchester
  • 1997-01 Professor of Chemical Engineering, School of Chemical Engineering, University of Edinburgh
  • 1996-97 Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College
  • 1987-96 Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College


  • 2012- Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, FRSC
  • 2004- Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, FIChemE
  • 1992-2012 Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • 1992- Chartered Chemist
  • 1991-2004 Member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers
  • 1991- Chartered Engineer

Honours and Awards

  • 2012- Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, FREng
  • 2005- Visiting Professor, University of Manchester
  • 1996 Imperial College Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 1993 ICI Fellowship
  • 1989 Esso Education Award
  • 1982 Hinchley Medal (Institution of Chemical Engineers)
  • 1979 Royal Scholarship (Imperial College)


Spanish (good), French (beginner's), German (beginner's), Japanese (beginner's)



Over the past twenty-five years I have built-up an externally funded research programme with a strong equipment base. This has been achieved through a balanced combination of individual and collaborative grants and contracts. The focus of my research is in applying chemical engineering to problems in the area of catalysis and high temperature membranes. While the emphasis is very much on applied research, often a fundamental understanding of the nature of the problem is necessary. I have published more than 100 refereed papers, supervised around 40 PhD students.

Much of my research involves working with inorganic membranes. In many cases solid oxide materials can exhibit very high ionic conductivities (e.g., oxygen-ion or proton conductivity). If, at the same time, the electronic conductivity of the material is very low the material can be employed as a solid electrolyte. If the electronic conductivity is high, the material can be used as a mixed-conducting membrane. My research involves the application of both solid electrolytes and mixed-conducting membrane systems for reaction and separation.


Undergraduate Teaching

I have been an innovator in chemical engineering education since my appointment in 1987 as a lecturer at Imperial College. Recognition of this came through an Imperial College Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1996.
During my time teaching Chemical Reaction Engineering (Imperial College) and Kinetics and Catalysis (Edinburgh) I gradually modified my approach to include a strong interactive element in the lectures (this course in now delivered in Newcastle as Reactor Engineering). Generally, each lecture consists of a twenty minute introduction to a concept, followed by an example for the students to try. The examples are simple but designed to test understanding and should be completed by average students within twenty minutes. While the students work on the examples the opportunity is taken to talk with them to find and correct misunderstandings as they occur. Excellent results on teaching evaluation questionnaires have been consistently obtained. The course is complemented with a text book on the subject authored by myself as well as web material summarising what is covered in the lectures.
It is generally accepted to be very difficult to teach programming to students using traditional teaching techniques (e.g. lectures) and, consequently when teaching programming at UMIST, I developed web-based material for the delivery of the ‘IT and Applications’ course. The course included online tests (typically two per week) to monitor student progression through the material. This allowed increased flexibility with the opportunity for students to pace themselves. Chemical engineering problems were introduced into the course once the students knowledge and skill has reached the appropriate level.