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Staff Profile

Prof. Chris Greenwell, (Adjunct Professor in the Department of Chemistry),Layered materials, geochemistry, computational materials science

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Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry
Chair in Geochemistry in the Department of Earth Sciences
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42324
Room number: Rm 1.09, Christopherson Building
Member of the Durham X-ray Centre
Director (Science) in the Institute of Advanced Study
Telephone: 44690/42589/42324
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 44699
Room number: D007

(email at


2012 – present — Senior Lecturer in Geoenergy, Durham University

2010 – 2012 — Lecturer in Geoenergy, Durham University

2007 – 2010 — Addison Wheeler Fellow, Durham University and Affiliate Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University.

2005 – present — Honorary Lecturer at the Centre for Computational Science, Department of Chemistry. University College London (UCL)

2010 — Invited Associate Professor at CNRS Nancy, France

2005 – 2007 — Centre for Applied Marine Sciences (CAMS), School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales Bangor – Senior Research Officer

2003 – 2005 — University College London. EPSRC funded post-doctoral research assistant

2000 – 2003 — University of Cambridge, PhD

Career Research Highlights

Chris Greenwell is an internationally leading researcher into the surface chemistry, structure and properties of layered minerals. This research spans catalysis, oil and gas exploration and production, composite materials and early Earth chemistry. In particular, the Greenwell group bridges across the computer simulation and experimental study of layered mineral systems. Areas where significant advances have been made include understanding the reatcivity and folding dynamics of biomarcomolecules at mineral surfaces, fossil and bio-fuel forming reactions at mineral catalysts, the material properties of nano-composites and the crystal growth and modification of layered double hydroxide minerals.

Committee and Society Service

2010 – present — Clay Minerals Group Committee; Mineralogical Society

2003 – present — K Astrobiology Society – founding member

1997 – present — Royal Society of Chemistry, Member

Conferences and Workshops

2013 — UK Mineralogical Society Clay Minerals Special Interest group, Annual Research in Progress day - Organiser.

2012 — US Clay Mineral Society Conference on Multi-scale Modelling of Clays and Shales - Session convenor

2012 — Biofuels, Science & Society – Organiser.

2010 — Durham University Prebiotic Chemistry Symposium - Organiser.

Invited Talks (selected, since 2008)

2013 — “TBC”, invited speaker at the US Clay Minerals Society meeting in Illinois, USA

2012 — “Life on the edge? Studying biomolecules at layered mineral interfaces” Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

2012 — “Mineral catalysed deoxygenation reactions - learning new tricks from a very old process”, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado, USA

2012 — “Chemistry Between the Sheets: Probing Structure and Reactivity in Layered Minerals”, Leeds University, Leeds, UK

2012 — “Shale Gas in the UK – Evaluation of the gas potential of the Holywell Shale, North East Wales”, European Gas Research Group Academic Network Event, Brussels

2011 — “Layered Minerals: Current Challenges and Applications” Imerys Minerals, Parr, Cornwall, UK

2011 — “Mineral catalysed deoxygenation reactions - learning new tricks from a very old process”, Newcastle University, Department of Chemical Engineering, Newcastle, UK

2010 — “Decarboxylation of fatty acids using mineral catalysts”, Bioenergy: Chances & Limits, Leopoldina, Germany

2010 — “Decarboxylation of fatty acids using mineral catalysts: from microalgae to road transport fuels and chemical feedstocks”, Royal Society Frontiers in Science, Fortaleza, Brazil

2010 — “Layered Minerals: Current Challenges”, Lafarge Research Centre Lyon, Lyon, France

2010 — “Investigating Layered Mineral-Organic Interactions”, CNRS Nancy (LCPME), Nancy, France

2010 — “Using computer simulation to elucidate structure and reactivity in layered minerals”, Johnson Matthey, Billingham, Teeside, UK

2010 — “Optimising oil recovery from microalgae”, Exxon-Mobil, New Jersey USA

2009 — “Microalgal Production Using Tubular Photobioreactors: Facing a changing market”, F.O. Lichts Next Generation Biofuels Conference, Munich

2008 — “Greening the oil-industry: e-Science and oil & gas well drilling chemistry”, UK e-Science All Hands Meeting, Edinburgh, UK

2008 — “The New Improved Muds from Environmental Sources (NIMES) Project”, EPSRC/TSB e-Science programme Meeting, Edinburgh, UK

2008 — “Marine Biofuels and Biodiscovery from Marine Organisms” New Technologies to develop the Potential of Ocean Resources, UK Foreign Office, Trade and Industry Seminar, Lisbon Portugal

Membership of Organizations and Societies

Member, Royal Society of Chemistry

Corresponding Member, European Association of Geochemists

Founding Member, UK Astrobiology Society

Prizes and Awards

2013 — Mineralogical Society – Nominated for Max Heyes medal

Bangor University - Evans-Morris Prize; Peboc Prize & Medal; John Morris Jones Prize

Recent and Current Grants (Selected)

2013 – 2017 — Royal Society Industry Fellowship to study “Mineral Interface Determination During Shale Hydration” with M-I SWACO (Schlumberger).

2013 – 2016 — Saudi Aramco “Designing High Pressure & Temperature Drilling Fluids”. A joint project with Prof Andy Whiting (Chemistry) to develop new technologies to inhibit shale swelling.

2013 – 2018 — EPSRC £1.6M “MacroBioCrude”. A sustainable chemistry grant looking at gasification of preserved macroalgae (with PI Phil Dyer).

2012 – 2015 — Leverhulme Trust: Archean Peptide Formation. This is to fund 2 postdoctoral researchers, working with Prof Fraser at Oxford University to investigate the geochemical constrains on early Earth peptide formation.

2011 – 2014 — NERC CASE PhD Studentship. This project works with M-I SWACO to study the early stage hydration of clays using neutron scattering and XRD methods. 

2012 – 2015 — I-Gas PhD Studentship investgating geochemical variability across the Holywell Shale.

2012 – 2013 — Durham University Infrastructure Bid. A grant of £1.1M was received to build an integrated high pressure/flow chemistry facility refurbishing the existing high-pressure lab. Joint bid with Andy Whiting (Chemistry)

2012 – 2015 and 2013-2016 — Kurdistan Regional Government and BP. 2 PhD studentships investigating low salinity enhanced oil rcovery.

2011 – 2014: Centre for Process Innovation PhD CASE studentship to study macroalgae conversion chemistries.

2010 – 2013 — EU FP7 Research for SMEA (PI). A grant of €525K as part of the AlgaeBIoSorb consortium to look at heterogeneous catalysis for marine and freshwater microalgae biofuel upgrading (2010).

2008 – 2010 — Knowledge Transfer Partnership. A grant (£135k) has been awarded to study enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods using novel reactor vessels in partnership with an industry sponsor. With Dr Andy Whiting.

2008 – 2011 — Doctoral Training Account, Durham University. A CASE-PhD studentship was granted to study mineral induced decarboxylation of fatty acids for biofuel applications (2008). With Dr Andy Whiting.

Research Groups

Department of Earth Sciences

  • Climate and Environmental Change
  • Geoenergy, Resources and Waste


Journal Article

  • Kareem, R., Cubillas, P., Gluyas, J., Bowen, L., Hillier, S. & Greenwell, H.C. (2017). Multi-technique approach to the petrophysical characterization of Berea sandstone core plugs (Cleveland Quarries, USA). Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 149: 436-455.
  • Racionero-Gómez, B., Sproson, A.D., Selby, D., Gannoun, A., Gröcke, D.R., Greenwell, H.C. & Burton, K.W. (2017). Osmium uptake, distribution, and 187Os/188Os and 187Re/188Os compositions in Phaeophyceae macroalgae, Fucus vesiculosus: Implications for determining the 187Os/188Os composition of seawater. Geochimica Cosmochimica et Acta 199: 48-57.
  • Newport, Leo P., Aplin, Andrew C., Gluyas, Jon G., Greenwell, H. Christopher & Gröcke, Darren R. (2016). Geochemical and lithological controls on a potential shale reservoir: Carboniferous Holywell Shale, Wales. Marine and Petroleum Geology 71: 198-210.
  • Grégoire, Brian, Erastova, Valentina, Geatches, Dawn L. Clark, Stewart J., Greenwell, H. Christopher & Fraser, Donald G. (2016). Insights into the Behaviour of Biomolecules on the Early Earth: The Concentration of Aspartate by Layered Double Hydroxide Minerals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 176: 239-258.
  • Underwood, T., Erastova, V. & Greenwell, H.C. (2016). Ion Adsorption at Clay Mineral Surfaces: The Hofmeister Series for Hydrated Smectite Minerals. Clays and Clay Minerals
  • Schiener, P., Zhao, S., Theodoridou, K., Carey, M., Mooney-McAuley, K. & Greenwell, H.C. (2016). The nutritional aspects of biorefined Saccharina latissima, Ascophylum nodosum and Palmaria palmata. Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery
  • Greathouse, Jeffery A., Geatches, Dawn l., Pike, Darin Q., Greenwell, H. Christopher, Johnston, Cliff T., Wilcox, Jennifer & Cygan, Randall T. (2015). Methylene Blue Adsorption on the Basal Surfaces of Kaolinite: Structure and Thermodynamics from Quantum and Classical Molecular Simulation. Clays and Clay Minerals 63(3): 185.
  • Raji, M., Gröcke, D.R., Greenwell, H.C., Gluyas, J.G. & Cornford, C. (2015). The effect of interbedding on shale reservoir properties. Marine and Petroleum Geology 67: 154-169.
  • Metz, Sebastian Anderson, Richard L. Geatches, Dawn L. Suter, James L., Lines, Robert & Greenwell, H. Christopher (2015). Understanding the Swelling Behavior of Modified Nanoclay Filler Particles in Water and Ethanol. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 119(22): 12625-12642.
  • Greathouse, J.A., Johnson, K.L. & Greenwell, H.C. (2014). Interaction of Natural Organic Matter with Layered Minerals: Recent Developments in Computational Methods at the Nanoscale. Minerals 4(2): 519-540.
  • Swadling, JB, Suter, JL, Greenwell, HC & Coveney, PV (2013). Influence of Surface Chemistry and Charge on Mineral-RNA Interactions. Langmuir 29(5): 1573-1583.
  • Flynn, K.J., Mitra, A., Greenwell, H.C. & Sui, J. (2013). Monster potential meets potential monster: pros and cons of deploying genetically modified microalgae for biofuels production. Interface Focus 3(1): 20120037.
  • Greenwell, HC, Lloyd-Evans, M & Wenner, C (2012). Biofuels, science and society. Interface Focus 3(1): 20120093.
  • Rowbotham, JR, Dyer, PW, Greenwell, HC, Selby, D & Theodorou, MK (2012). Copper(II)-mediated thermolysis of alginates: a model kinetic study on the influence of metal ions in the thermochemical processing of macroalgae. Interface Focus 3(1): 20120046.
  • Swadling, JB, Coveney, PV & Greenwell, HC (2012). Stability of free and mineral-protected nucleic acids: Implications for the RNA world. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 83: 360-378.
  • Coveney, PV, Swadling, JB, Wattis, JAD & Greenwell, HC (2012). Theory, modelling and simulation in origins of life studies. Chemical Society Reviews 41(16): 5430-5446.
  • Fraser, DG, Greenwell, HC, Skipper, NT, Smalley, MV, Wilkinson, MA, Deme, B & Heenan, RK (2011). Chiral interactions of histidine in a hydrated vermiculite clay. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 13(3): 825-830.
  • Das, A, Wang, DY, Leuteritz, A, Subramnaiam, K, Greenwell, HC, Wagenknecht, U & Heinrich, G (2011). Preparation of zinc oxide free, transparent rubber nanocomposites using a layered double hydroxide filler. Journal of Materials Chemistry 21(20): 7194-7200.
  • Suter, J.L., Coveney, P. V., Anderson, R. L., Greenwell, H. C. & Cliffe, S. (2011). Rule based design of clay-swelling inhibitors. Energy & Environmental Science 4(11): 4572-4586.
  • Swadling, J. B., Coveney, P. V. & Greenwell, H. C. (2010). Clay Minerals Mediate Folding and Regioselective Interactions of RNA: A Large-Scale Atomistic Simulation Study. Journal of the American Chemical Society 132(39): 13750-13764.
  • Greenwell, H. C., Laurens, L. M. L., Shields, R. J., Lovitt, R. W. & Flynn, K. J. (2010). Placing microalgae on the biofuels priority list: a review of the technological challenges. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 7(46): 703-726.
  • Geatches, Dawn L., Clark, Stewart J. & Greenwell, Hugh C. (2010). Role of Clay Minerals in Oil-Forming Reactions. The Journal of Physical Chemistry A 114(10): 3569-3575.
  • Flynn, KJ, Greenwell, HC, Lovitt, RW & Shields, RJ (2010). Selection for fitness at the individual or population levels: Modelling effects of genetic modifications in microalgae on productivity and environmental safety. Journal of Theoretical Biology 263(3): 269.
  • Thyveetil, M. A., Coveney, P. V., Greenwell, H. C. & Suter, J. L. (2008). Computer Simulation Study of the Structural Stability and Materials Properties of DNA-Intercalated Layered Double Hydroxides. Journal of the American Chemical Society 130(14): 4742-4756.
  • Thyveetil, M. A., Coveney, P. V., Greenwell, H. C. & Suter, J. L. (2008). Role of Host Layer Flexibility in DNA Guest Intercalation Revealed by Computer Simulation of Layered Nanomaterials. Journal of the American Chemical Society 130(37): 12485-12495.
  • H.C. Greenwell & P.V. Coveney (2006). Layered double hydroxide minerals as possible prebiotic information storage and transfer compounds. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 36(1): 13-37.
  • H.C. Greenwell, W. Jones, P.V. Coveney & S. Stackhouse (2006). On the application of computer simulation techniques to anionic and cationic clays: a materials chemistry perspective. Journal of Materials Chemistry 16(8): 708-723.