Monday, 11 October 2021

Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineers to Prof. Sam Kingman

It is always great to announce that one of our fellow mineral processors has received a prestigious award, and as such it was particularly good to hear that Prof. Sam Kingman, who was a keynote lecturer at MEI's Physical Separation '19 has been awarded Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineers.

Professor Kingman, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham, is a gifted academic with a real flair for providing industry with innovative solutions. His research is focused on developing a fundamental understanding of the interaction of microwave and electromagnetic energy with materials and how this can be used to develop energy-efficient, sustainable processes. The development of global partnerships with both academia and industry has been crucial to delivering impact from his work, successfully linking the highest quality research and innovation with an industrial supply chain. 

For over 40 years engineers have explored opportunities for using microwave energy to improve the efficiency of mineral and metallurgical processes.  Given the vast energy consumption of such processes this is not a surprise  as microwave heating has long been assumed to reduce energy consumption in process engineering unit operations.  Selective heating of microwave-absorbent sulphides and metal oxides deported in a microwave-transparent gangue matrix results in differential thermal expansion of the heated phase, yielding micro-fracture around grain margins. Subsequent downstream processing may then yield higher recovery of valuable mineral sulphides and/or lower specific comminution energy, compared to non-microwave treated ore.

But while the mechanistic principles are well established, the scientific and engineering challenges of developing a commercial scale system have been immense. Typical throughputs of a large copper mine can be in excess of 5000 tph of milled ore and a microwave based treatment system would need to handle equivalent throughputs. This is at least an order of magnitude higher than any other microwave process ever built.

Four years ago (posting of 1st June 2017) I reported on two important papers, published in Minerals Engineering, describing how Sam's team from the University of Nottingham and Jenike & Johanson, USA, had detailed the design, commissioning and operation of a system which was the culmination of over fifteen years of research and development activity. This resulted in a pilot-scale high power microwave treatment process, capable of operating continuously at throughputs of up to 150 tph, but crucially scaleable up to several thousand tonnes per hour.

More recent work has shown for the first time that microwave technology can be used in commercial mineral processing plants and that it can be used at significant scale with several of the largest microwave processing plants ever built being applied.  In 2018 a multidisciplinary team of engineers from the University of Nottingham and Teledyne e2v were presented with the Colin Campbell Mitchell Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering for developing MicroHammer, a revolutionary process for extracting copper from its ore by exposing rocks to powerful microwave energy for a fraction of a second. The team combined their skills in microwave technology and engineering to develop the largest microwave processing system ever constructed, capable of processing up to 3000 tonnes of ore per hour.

At Physical Separation '19 Sam's keynote lecture "What's cooking in mining?" examined the steps required to scale up such processes, and the importance of the team involved, presenting a strong case for understanding the value proposition for the technology being developed at the earliest stages of the project and the use of this to drive the research direction. He drew conclusions as to the steps required to see this technology in daily use across our industry - a time which he feels may be sooner than some workers may have previously thought.

Professor Kingman and his group have been recognised through the award of The Engineer Technology and Innovation Prize for Environmental Technology and the Environmental Prize of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and in 2011 he was awarded the Bielby Medal by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Society of Chemical Industries and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining for his work to reduce energy consumption in chemical processing. Other prestigious awards include the Institution of Chemical Engineers Energy Prize in 2012 for work in microwave processing of industrial minerals and the UK Medal for Excellence in Engineering (2001). Microwave processing research at Nottingham has also been recognised by the award of the 2009 Environmental prize by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Congratulations Sam, and we look forward to hearing more of progress on this exciting technology.



  1. Congratulations to Prof Kingman on being elected to the Fellowship; we need to keep the Mining and Minerals Engineering flag waving really hard!

  2. Congratulations to Professor Kingman. I would like to add that Barry Wills in 2009 was the first to organize the International Conference on Microwaves in Mineral Processes (microwave 09) in Cape Town. unfortunately there are no such conferences.

    1. Hi Alexander. It was actually in 2008, and as there were only 20 participants, it was the first and the last in the series!

  3. there were also about 20 people at the 5th Solvay International Conference.

    1. Good one Alexander! Unfortunately, however, Albert Einstein et al weren't available for Microwaves '08

  4. A great precis of Sam’s achievements in progressing microwave pretreatment.
    Grant Wellwood, Wellwood Associates, Australia

  5. My hearty congratulations Professor Kingman--your perseverance and innovative work in Mineral Engineering. which is of great value to industry. is well recognized; you richly deserve and our profession is very much in need of such innovations.

  6. Congratulations to Professor Kingman and for being awarded this years Futers medal by the Institute of Materials Mining & Metallurgy. His mantle piece must be pretty full! Well done and hope to see you at the awards dinner in London later this year. The last time I met Barry was at the 2017 event. Tony

  7. I would like to add my congratulations to Prof. Sam Kingman for being awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineers for his work on the pulsed microwaving of ores. This processing alternative has not reached acceptance in the mining industry yet despite large scale pilot work and despite the possibilities of driving endothermic reactions with microwave energy. However, Kingman’s work inspired me, among many others, to look at other applications of microwaves in the mineral processing industry. I mention for example the removal or blinding of carbonaceous preg-robbing material from ores. His work also inspired the thermographic scanning of drillcore and sorting sulphide ores on the basis of temperature. More recently, the CANMICRO Group in Canada has refocused on Kingman’s original concept in combination with ore sorting. Pilot work is going on at SEPRO in British Columbia. Google SEPRO+microwaves, for some video introductions. Well done, Sam!
    Gus Van Weert, Fellow CIM

  8. Hi Sam,
    It's been a long time since we met but I have followed your work and want to congratulate on the latest award. Your persistence in advancing the science and especially the engineering of microwave technology in the mining industry is an inspiration to young researchers who have a passion for a technology they feel will advance the industry.

    James A. Finch, McGill University, Canada


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