Emeritus Professor Jim Swithenbank

BSc, PhD, FREng, FInstE

School of Chemical, Materials and Biological Engineering

Emeritus Professor of Energy Engineering

Chairman of SUWIC University Research Centre


Professor Swithenbank’s first degree was in Nuclear Physics (Fist Class Honours, 1953) at Birmingham University.

He then worked for Rolls-Royce (Bristol Engine Division 1953-58) on ramjet engine development for the highly successful Bloodhound anti-aircraft missile.

After a brief period designing aircraft at Canadair, Montreal, Canada he transferred to a post as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University, Canada (1958-61), where he led the Hypersonic Air Breathing Engines (scramjet) research programme.

After returning to the UK, he became Professor of Fuel Technology at Sheffield University where he has remained ever since. The name of the Department was progressively changed to Chemical and Process Engineering and he served as Head of Department for fifteen years.

He is now Chairman of the SUWIC Energy and Environment Research Centre and together with Professor Sharifi, he currently leads several Sheffield University EPSRC funded research consortium programmes, e.g.

  • Supergen Biomass
  • Intrawise, Pollutants in the Built Environment
  • Thermal Management in the Process Industry
  • Sustained Urban Environment - Energy from Waste
  • Hydrogen production by Chemical Looping (with China)

He has particular expertise in: City-wide Combined Heat and Power, Power Generation Systems, Mathematical Modelling, Reacting Fluid Flow, Combustion, Gasification, Energy Recovery Systems, Waste Management and Recycling, Energy from Waste, Pollution Monitoring and Control, Organic and Inorganic Emissions (e.g. Dioxins and Heavy Metals), Energy from Biomass, Invention of Diagnostic Instruments, Ash Detoxification, Solid Propellant Rocket Technology, etc.

He is author of more than 450 papers published in scientific journals, and over 20 patents. He has been awarded and managed a very large number of research grants.

In view of his unusually broad experience and expertise in Science and Engineering he regularly serves on Strategic or Executive Panels for EPSRC, NPL, DEFRA etc awarding several millions of pounds each.

He is internationally pre-eminent as co-inventor of the Malvern laser diffraction particle/droplet sizing instrument that twice won the Queen’s Award for Export. He is co-author of the FLUENT Computational Fluid Dynamic code that led to his International Award by the Finnish Prime Minister of the Ahlstrom Prize, plus several other International Awards by the AIAA, ASME, etc. (The development of computational fluid dynamics, where FLUENT is the world market leader, is arguably one of the most significant developments in modern Engineering.

In recognition of the success of his activities in Combined Heat and Power for Sheffield City, Sheffield University was presented with the prestigious Queen's Award for Environmental Outreach.

Research interests
  • City-wide Combined Heat and Power (CHP/District Heating Systems)
  • Computational Fluid Dynamic Modelling (CFD) of thermal processes
  • Combustion Science and Technology
  • Pyrolysis and Gasification Technologies
  • Energy from Waste and Biomass
Key papers

Waste segregation presents thermal treatment opportunities, C Ryu, YB Yang, P Gilbert, V Sharifi, J Swithenbank, Journal of Waste & Resource Management (ICE), Vol 162, Issue WR1, pp 45 – 59, 2009

Effect of bed depth on characterisation of slow pyrolysis products, A Phan, V Sharifi, J Swithenbank, Journal of Fuel, Vol 88, Issue 8, pp 1383-1387, 2009

Pyrolysis and combustion of oil palm stone and palm kernel cake in fixed bed reactors, R razuan, Q Chen, X Zhang, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, Journal of Bioresource Technology, Vol 101, Issue 12, pages 4622-4629, 2010

Comparison of Emision Characteristics of small scale heating systems using biomass instead of Coal, Q Chen, X Zhang, D Bardford, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, Journal of Energy & Fuels, Vol 24, pages 4255-4265, 2010

Wood would burn, Q Chen, X Zhang, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, Journal of Biomass and Bioenergy, Vol 9, 2010

Experimental investigation and mathematical modelling of wood combustion in a moving grate boiler, Q Chen, X Zhang, D Bradford, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, Vol 91, Issue 11, pages 1491-1499, 2010

Investigation into high temperature corrosion in a large scale municipal waste to energy plant, A Phongphiphat, C Ryu, YB Yang, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, Journal of Corrosion Science, Vol 52, Issue 12, pages 3861-3874, 2010

Hydrogen production from molten metal gasification, R Eatwell, J Swithenbank, V Sharifi, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 35, Isuue 24, pages 13168- 13178, 2010