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Prof. Nickolas J. Themelis

Prof.  Nickolas J. Themelis

Columbia University, Earth Engineering Center

US - 10027 New York City

24320 visitors
Main focus:sustainable waste management;
recovery of energy and materials;
industrial ecology

Current activity:He joined Columbia in 1980 and is past chair of the Henry Krumb School of Mines and also of the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Founder and current director of Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center
Chair and co-founder, with Maria Zannes of IWSA, of the Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council

Former activity:Dr. Themelis obtained his B. Eng. (British Association Medal for Great Distinction) and Ph.D. degrees from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in chemical engineering. In the first ten years of his career, he was Director of the Engineering Division of the Noranda Research Center in Pointe Claire where he invented and helped develop the Noranda Process for the continuous smelting and converting of copper concentrates and recycled copper and the recovery of sulphur dioxide as sulphuric acid. At present there are several Noranda process plants operating, at Noranda (Canada), Daye (China), Shenyang (China), Port Kembla (Australia), Altonorte (Chile), and Hudson Bay (Canada). Since its inception, the Noranda process has reduced sulphur emissions from copper smelting to the atmosphere by millions of tons.
In 1972-1980, Prof. Themelis was Vice President of Technology of Kennecott Corp., the major non-ferrous company at that time. He was appointed as Professor by Columbia University (New York City, U.S.A.) in 1980 and was elected to Stanley-Thompson Chair of Chemical Metallurgy in 1988. He was chairman of the Henry Krumb School of Mines and founded Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center in 1996 ( In 1995, he introduced at Columbia University the teaching of industrial ecology to engineers and in 1997 led the transformation of the historic School of Mines to the new engineering discipline of Earth and Environmental Engineering and was first chairman of the new Department. (
Dr. Themelis has been consultant to industry and government in the areas of process design and management of technical resources. He is member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, member of the New York Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, member of the Metallurgical Society of Canada, Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, member of the Materials and Energy Division of ASME, and member of International Solid Wastes Association.
Prof. Themelis is founder and Chairman of the Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERT,, an international consortium of universities, companies and governmental organizations concerned with the recovery of materials and energy from industrial and municipal wastes by means of recycling, anaerobic digestion, composting, WTE, and landfill gas capture and utilization. WTERT has sister organizations in China (, Greece (, Canada ( and Germany. The mission of WTERT and its parent organization, the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University is the design and advancement of sustainable methods for material and energy recovery from used products. Past and ongoing EEC/WTERT projects include the design of waste management systems for New York City, Athens (Greece), Rhodes (Greece), Florence (Italy), Santiago (Chile) and Hyderabad (India). In 2004, 2006, and 2008, Prof. Themelis directed a U.S. national survey of the generation and disposition of municipal solid wastes (SOG, BioCycle journal, December 2008). This survey analyzes data submitted by the solid waste departments of the fifty states and its results are used in the USEPA’s calculation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, since 2007.
Prof. Themelis is the recipient of several professional awards (listed below), author of over 200 technical papers and four books, and inventor of twenty one patents related to high temperature processing of minerals and materials.

Education:Graduate of McGill University in chemical and metallurgical engineering

Patents:He is inventor of about twenty patents related to high temperature processing.

Awards:• Medal of Achievement of Solid Wastes Processing Division, American Sociwety of Mechanical Engineers (May 2008).
• Honorary Member of the Japan Institute of Metals (March 2006)
• Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) (March 2004).
• ALCAN Award of Canadian Metallurgical Society (1997) for outstanding contributions to mining and metallurgy.
• Best Paper Award (Journal of Thermal Spray Technology, 2002), International Thermal Spray Society
• Best Paper Award, Metallurgical Society of Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (1993)
• Columbia University 1987 Kohnstamm Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Industrial Chemistry
• 1987 Lecturer of the British Institution of Mining and Metallurgy (1987)
• Two gold medals of the Metallurgical Society of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIME) for best paper published (1968, 1970)
• ERCO award of the Canadian Society of Chemical Engineering (1971).
• Best Paper Award Canadian Metallurgical Society (1993)
• McConnell Environmental Award of the AIME (1984)
• Extractive Metallurgy Lecturer of AIME (1972)

Memberships:Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, of the New York Academy of Sciences,
Fellow of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society,
Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and
Member of ISWA, SWANA, ASME International, Air and Waste Management Association, AEESP and other organizations

Articles: A Guidebook for Sustainable Waste Management in Latin America (11/2014)

Generation and Disposition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States - A National Survey (1/2014)

The Global WTERT Council and its Role in Advancing WTE Technologies (9/2011)

Striving for Sustainable Waste Management in a Rapidly Developing World (10/2010)

Contributions of the Earth Engineering Center to understanding the impacts of waste management on climate change: 2008-2010 (10/2010)

Trends in recycling and means for increasing plastics recycling (10/2010)

Results of the BioCycle/Columbia 2010 survey of waste generation and disposal in the U.S. (10/2010)

Where Greece stands on the Ladder of Sustainable Waste Management (6/2010)

Don't trash waste-to-energy plants (10/2009)

Energy and materials recovery from municipal solid wastes at the island of Rhodes (6/2009)

Potential for energy generation in Greece by combustion of asreceived or pre-processed (RDF/SRF) municipal solid wastes (6/2009)

Potential for reducing global methane emissions from landfills, 2000-2030 (10/2007)

Thermal treatment review (8/2007)

Sustainable Waste Management for the 21st Century (2/2007)

Methane generation in landfills (4/2006)

The State of Garbage in America (4/2006)

Capture and Utilisation of Landfill Gas (9/2005)

Waste in a land of plenty - Solid waste generation and management in the US (10/2004)

The Case for WTE as a Renewable Source of Energy (5/2004)

The State of Garbage in America (1/2004)

Transport and Chemical Rate Phenomena (8/1995)


Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility

Renergia, a brand new Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility opened in Canton Lucerne, shows that Waste-to-Energy can provide reliable heat for industries.

Category: Incineration / Waste-to-Energy plant
Executing firm: Renergia Zentralschweiz AG

MBT Ljubljana, Slovenia

In Slovenia arises one of the largest and most modern waste treatment plants in Europe.

Category: Recycling / MBT
Executing firm: STRABAG AG

Flue Gas Cleaning

The final unit of the incineration plant is one of the most important parts as it has the objective of cleaning the air pollutants produced.

Category: Incineration
Executing firm: ete.a - Ingenieurgesellschaft für Energie– und Umweltengineering & Beratung mbH

Batch Dry Fermentation

The biogas produced from the waste can be converted in a CHP to electrical and thermal energy or fed as processed bio-methane into the natural gas grid or used as fuel (CNG).

Category: Recycling / Fermentation
Executing firm: BEKON Energy Technologies Co. & KG

MBT Warsaw, Poland

The Bio-Dry™ system is a static, aerated and flexibly enclosed reactor for the biological drying of various solid waste matters containing some biodegradable contents.

Category: Recycling / MBT
Executing firm: Convaero GmbH

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