UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


Marc-Olivier Coppens

Ramsay Memorial Professor, Vice Dean (Interdisciplinarity Innovation)

Marc-Olivier Coppens


Marc-Olivier Coppens is Ramsay Memorial Professor in Chemical Engineering at UCL, since 2012. Having served as Head of Department for 8 years, he is, since 2021, Vice-Dean for Engineering (Interdisciplinarity, Innovation). He directs the UCL Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering (CNIE), which was granted EPSRC “Frontier Engineering” (2013) and “Progression” (2019) Awards. 
His tenure at UCL follows professorships at Rensselaer (RPI) in the USA (2006-2012) and TU Delft, The Netherlands (1998-2006), including as Chair of Physical Chemistry & Molecular Thermodynamics. Before, he was postdoc at UC Berkeley (1997-1998), visiting scholar at Yale (1996) and at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1996).
In 2017, he became Qiushi Chair at Zhejiang University (China) and was appointed to the Scientific Council of IFP Energies nouvelles (France). He serves or has served on multiple committees for IChemE and AIChE (CRE, PTF, CTOC, IC), is on international Advisory Boards, e.g., for Universidad de los Andes (Colombia) and Mesoscience (China), Editor-in-Chief of Chemical Engineering & Processing: Process Intensification and on editorial boards of RSC MSDE, Powder Technology, and KONA.

Teaching Summary 

His passion for teaching started in earnest when introducing a course on Fractals in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at UC Berkeley (1998), which he also taught at TUDelft and RPI. At TUDelft, his teaching included 1st year Introduction to Process Technology, and transport phenomena in Life Sciences and Technology. At RPI, he taught Chemical Reactor Design, heat transfer laboratory, graduate thermodynamics, and transformed the “capstone” Chemical Process Design course to be product-oriented, open-ended, focusing on safety and societal context, with milestone-based project development by student-teams. This earned him a Rensselaer School of Engineering Innovation in Teaching Award in 2012. 
At UCL, he was an early adopter of the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP), and he developed and teaches the innovative Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering (NICE) module for 4th year MEng and MSc CPE students. The NICE module integrates the CNIE’s research and unique methodology for disruptive problem solving. It embraces the ethos of the IEP; student teams combine creativity and fundamentals to propose a nature-inspired solution for a chemical engineering related problem of their choice. In 2020, he was awarded a UCL Education Award for Engineering, for research-based education, especially for NICE. His vision formed the basis for the new MSc on Nature-Inspired Solutions (NIS), to be launched at UCL East in 2023.

Research Summary

Professor Coppens’s interdisciplinary research combines fundamental theoretical and computational work with experiments to address challenging problems, especially those related to resource efficiency (energy, water and materials), sustainable manufacturing, health and biomedical engineering. He is driven by the need for transformative technology, in the face of the critical, Grand Challenges our planet faces, as exemplified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where incremental progress is insufficient. To do so, he has developed a unique approach, called Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering (NICE). This involves the design of intensified chemical processes and innovative products, guided by fundamental mechanisms in natural systems that underpin desirable properties, like scalability, efficiency and resilience, and their use, adapted to the context of technological applications. The UCL Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering (CNIE), directed by Professor Coppens, has extended this approach across disciplines, from catalysis, fluidized beds and fuel cells to cancer immunotherapy and water recovery, via a thematic, systematic Nature-Inspired Solution (NIS) methodology as a driver for sustainable design and accelerated innovation.



UCL Faculty of Engineering Education Award (2020)


Corresponding Member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences, Germany


PSRI Lectureship Award of the AIChE’s Particle Technology Forum

2000 - 2001

Young Chemist and PIONIER Awards from the Dutch National Science Foundation, NWO

2012 to present

50 invited plenary, keynote and named lectures internationally, since 2012



PhD, Chemical Engineering, University of Ghent, Belgium


MSc, Chemical Engineering, University of Ghent, Belgium

Professional Affiliations  

  • FIChemE
  • FAIChE
  • CEng
  • FRSC
  • Fellow of the BAEF - Belgian American Educational Foundation


  • Y. Liu and M.-O. Coppens, 2022, Cell membrane-inspired graphene nanomesh membrane for fast separation of oil-in-water emulsions. Adv. Funct. Mat. 32, 2200199.
  • M.-O. Coppens, 2021, Nature-inspired chemical engineering for process intensification. Ann. Rev. Chem. Biomolec. Eng. 12, 187-215.
  • M.-O. Coppens, T. Weissenberger, Q. Zhang and G. Ye, 2021, Nature-inspired, computer-assisted optimization of hierarchically structured zeolites. Adv. Mat. Int. 8(4), 2001409.
  • V. Francia, K. Wu and M.-O. Coppens, 2021, Dynamically structured fluidization: Oscillating the gas flow and other opportunities to intensify gas-solid fluidized bed operation. Chem. Eng. Proc. Proc. Int. 159, 108143.
  • P. Trogadas, J.I.S. Cho, T.P. Neville, J. Marquis, B. Wu, D.J.L. Brett and M.-O. Coppens, 2018, A lung-inspired approach to scalable and robust fuel cell design. Energy & Env. Sci. 11, 136-143.

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