Professor Spencer Taylor

Professor of Surface and Colloid Chemistry
+44 (0)1483 681999
11 AZ 01
Days vary but usually 08.00-18.00 h

Academic and research departments

School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.



I received my BSc and PhD degrees from the University of Surrey, the latter in physical organic chemistry on the kinetics of hydrogen-tritium exchange in heterocyclic compounds under the supervision of the late Professor John Richards Jones. Following bioinorganic chemistry postdoctoral positions in Canada and Oxford, I spent over 20 years in the petroleum industry with BP, working on various R&D aspects of colloid, interfacial, surfactant and emulsion technology underpinning upstream, downstream and chemicals businesses. I now undertake research in colloid and interfacial aspects of products and processes, with special interests in petroleum science and technology.

Research interests

My research interests are various, but primarily focus on fundamental and applied aspects of colloid, interfacial and surfactant science, including the preparation, characterisation, properties and applications of emulsions and suspensions. These systems have considerable industrial significance. Technological applications are recurring themes in these research areas, relating to the colloid and interface science underpinning nanoparticle technology, the formulation of fuel emulsions, cosmetics, lubricants, drilling fluids, catalysts, etc., and separations based on micellar or colloidal routes. Characterisation involves rheological, dielectric, particle size and surface and interfacial analytical techniques, as these are key to colloidal systems.

Specific areas of research include the chemistry, stability and handling of petroleum and petroleum products, the colloidal nature of crude oil and the understanding of the polar and heavier constituents such as asphaltenes and porphyrins, and their respective effects on production and refining operations, their behaviour at interfaces, and their effects on the stability of crude oil and bitumen emulsions. My work is also directed at the use of physical organic chemistry to improve the environmental quality and efficient use of fossil fuels through the identification and removal of trace contaminants, including the use of, for example, ultrasound (sonochemistry), adsorption and liquid emulsion/surfactant membranes. One example of this involves kinetic and equilibrium studies of physico-chemical interactions occurring in non-polar media which influence the thermal oxidative stability and water separation behaviour of aviation jet fuels.

I also maintain a continuing interest in bioinorganic mechanisms, and in particular the interaction between heavy metal ions and biomolecules, such as nucleobases, in which the identification of specific binding modes is important.




I am the recipient of two awards from the Institution of Chemical Engineers. In 1996, I received the Hutchison Medal for my work on the electrical treatment of water-in oil emulsions, published in Chemical Engineering Research & Design. Most recently, I was awarded the 2010 Senior Moulton Medal in recognition of work describing a conceptual process for the surfactant-mediated transfer of asphaltenes from oil into water.



Relevant publications from the past few years outlining my areas of interest include:


SE Taylor, Properties and Applications of High Internal Phase Ratio Emulsions, Recent Research Developments in Surface and Colloids, 1, 183-203 (2004)

ID Cunningham, J-P Courtois, TN Danks, DM Heyes, DJ Moreton and SE Taylor, Evidence for a Fragmentation Mechanism During the Formation of Calcium Carbonate Organo-nano-particles, Coll. Surf., 301, 184-188 (2007)

SE Taylor, Component Interactions in Jet Fuels. Fuel System Icing Inhibitor, Energy Fuels, 22, 2396-2404 (2007)

SE Taylor, Contamination of Jet Fuel: A response to JC Jones, Fuel, 89, 535 (2009)

H Frampton and SE Taylor, Gel Systems with Properties Suitable for Remediation of Water Injection Wells with Performance Impaired by Fractures and Super-permeability Zones, Chemistry in the Oil Industry XI, 125-142 (2009)

SE Taylor, Design and Technical Evaluation of a Conceptual Process for Transferring Solvent Precipitated Asphaltenes into Water Utilising Surfactant Phase Behaviour, Chem. Eng. Res. Design, 88, 61-72 (2010)

SE Taylor, Thermal destabilisation of bitumen-in-water emulsions - A spinning drop tensiometry study, Fuel, 90, 3028-3039 (2011)

AQ Clark, AG Smith, S Threadgold and SE Taylor, Dispersed water and particulates in jet fuel - Size analysis under operational conditions and application to coalescer disarming, Ind. Eng. Chem Res., 50, 5749-5765 (2011)

SE Taylor, Thermal destabilisation of bitumen-in-water emulsions - A spinning drop tensiometry study, Fuel, 90, 3028-3039 (2011)

SE Taylor, Rheology and structure of cornstarch suspensions in water-poly(propylene glycol) mixtures, J. Disp. Sci. Technol., 34, 887-897 (2013)

E Forte and SE Taylor, Thermodynamic modelling of asphaltene precipitation and related phenomena, Adv. Coll. Interface Sci., 217, 1-12 (2015)

M Jones and SE Taylor, NMR relaxometry and diffusometry in characterizing structural, interfacial and colloidal properties of heavy oils and oil sands, Adv. Coll. Interface Sci., 224, 33-45 (2015)

HT Chu and SE Taylor, An experimental demonstration of a multi-element flame photometer: Determination of salt concentration in soy sauce, Int. J. Chem., 8, 25-31 (2016)