Erica Pensini, PhD, P.Eng

Research Interests

My research interests are at the crossroads between the oil&gas, environmental and chemical engineering sectors. They encompass green process engineering, soil remediation, water treatment, colloid, polymer, emulsion and interface science.


  • ENGG1100 Engineering Design I
  • ENGG2560 Environmental Engineering Systems
  • ENGG6260 Colloids, Interfaces and Emulsions: Concepts and Practical Applications

Opportunities in the team

Are you interested in one of the projects listed below? We are on the lookout for highly motivated students with a background in chemical or environmental engineering. If you wish to be part of our team please contact me with you CV, outlining the research that appeals to you the most and indicating if you require funding.

We are an equal opportunity employer and we love diversity. International students are welcome, but please note that funding is currently available for Canadians and permanent residents of Canada only.

Research Projects

Reactive Gels for Soil /Groundwater Remediation

Soil and groundwater contamination is a significant issue in Canada, in which there are over 10,000 contaminated sites (Treasury Board of Canada). The majority of the existing remediation technologies do not allow simultaneously treating and immobilizing the contaminants, thus preventing their migration during the treatment. Our goal is to fill this gap by simultaneously immobilizing and treating subsurface contaminants. We are currently working on the development of reactive polymeric gels with tunable viscosity. The low viscosity of the gel in the clean zones facilitates its transport, while their high viscosity around the contaminated areas impedes contaminant migration. Reactive species embedded in the gel favour the degradation of the immobilized contaminants, allowing their remediation in situ.

Precision in Soil Remediation: Emulsions and Capsules for the Targeted Delivery of Reactive Species

Many in situ soil remediation technologies rely on adequate delivery of reactive species to the polluted zones and on the fact that the functionality of the reagents remains intact when they migrate in the subsurface. However, reactive species may undergo undesired reactions before the polluted zones are reached, losing their ability to degrade the contaminants. The scope of the project is to emulsify or encapsulate the reactive species to promote their migration in the clean zones and allow them to be released on demand in the contaminated areas.

Extraction of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOA) from Groundwater

PFOS and PFOA are global contaminants listed in the EPA priority list of hazardous substances, and conventional, oxidative, reductive, and thermal methods have been found to be ineffective for their treatment. The goal of the project is to scavenge PFOS/PFOA from water by concentrating them onto liquid interfaces, and subsequently treat them using radiation or other technologies that cannot be utilized in situ.

Phosphorus Removal from Agricultural Runoff Water

Natural sobents are being developed to remove phosphorus from agricultural run-off water collected in ditches, with the goal of mitigating the ingress of nutrients to Lake Erie. Following phosphorus sorption, phosphorus can be recovered from these sorbent materials and applied on the agricultural fields, hence offsetting the costs of the phosphorus removal technology.

Let’s crowdfund that scientific idea you can’t get off your mind!

Do you have a great idea you feel could strike a chord with the crowds? Do you think you could go a long way if you only had a few resources?

Crowdfunding is a way to fuel those small projects that can’t get supported through the traditional channels.

If you have an idea you think I can help you shape, I’d love to work with you to make it happen!

I don’t have the resources to support all the good ideas that come my way, but if you have a passion for science and the charisma to engage the public we can strive to get the resources to start.

At the end all oceans start with a drop.


[1] A. Iyer, E. Pensini, A. Singh. Effect of feedstock type on the physicochemical properties of hydrochar and on its effectiveness in removing hexavalent chromium from water. Submitted (corresponding author).

[2] I. L. Molnar, E. Pensini, Md A. Asad, C. A. Mitchell, L.C. Nitsche, L.J. Pyrak-Nolte, M.M. Krol. Colloid Transport in Porous Media: A Review of Classical Mechanics and Emerging Topics. Submitted.

[3] E. Pensini, A. Dinardo, K. Lamont, J. Longstaffe, A. Elsayed, A. Singh. Effect of salts and pH on the removal of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from aqueous solutions through precipitation and electroflocculation. Submitted. (Corresponding author).

[4] P. Safieh, E. Pensini, A. Marangoni, K. Lamont, S. Mirzaee Ghazani, N. Callaghan-Patrachar, M. Strüder-Kypke, F. Peyronel, J. Chen, B. Macias Rodriguez. Natural emulsion gels and lecithin-based sorbents: a potential treatment method for organic spills on surface waters. Submitted. (Corresponding author).

[5] E. Pensini, B. Macias Rodriguez, A. G. Marangoni, C. M. Collier, A. Elsayed. Shear Rheological Properties of Composite Fluids and Stability of Particle Suspensions: Potential Implications for Fracturing and Environmental Fluids. The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, 2018. Accepted (Corresponding author).

[6] Kristine Lamont, Erica Pensini, Prasad Daguppati, Ramesh Rudra, John van de Vegte. Natural reusable calcium-rich adsorbent for the removal of phosphorus from water: proof of concept of a circular economy. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, published ( (Corresponding author).

[7] Amanda Siwik, Erica Pensini, Abdallah Elsayed, Braulio Macias Rodriguez, Alejandro G. Marangoni, Christopher M. Collier. Natural guar, xanthan and carboxymethyl-cellulose-based fluids: potential use to trap and treat hexavalent chromium in the subsurface. Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering 2019, 7(1), pp. 102807.

[8] E. Pensini, A. Elsayed, B. Macias Rodriguez, A. G. Marangoni, A. Singh, B. Sleep, G. Hayward, K. Lamont, C. M. Collier. In situ trapping and treating of hexavalent chromium using scleroglucan-based fluids: A proof of concept. Colloids and Surfaces A 2018, 559, pp. 192–200. (Corresponding author).

[9] E. Pensini, P. Tchoukov, F. Yang, Z. Xu. Effect of Humic Acids on Bitumen Films at the Oil-Water Interface and on Emulsion Stability: Potential Implications for Groundwater Remediation. Colloids and Surfaces A 2018, 544, pp. 53-59. (Corresponding author)

[10] F. Yang, P. Tchoukov, P. Qiao, X. Ma, E. Pensini, T. Dabros, J. Czarnecki, Z. Xu. Studying Demulsification Mechanisms of Water-in-Crude Oil Emulsions using a Modified Thin Liquid Film Technique. Colloids and Surfaces A 2017, 540 (5), pp. 215-223.

[11] E. Pensini, F. Cuoq, R. van Lier, W. Hater, T. Halthur. Enhanced corrosion resistance of metal surfaces by film forming amines: a comparative study between cyclohexanamine and 2-(diethylamino)ethanol-based formulations. Water Resources and Industry 2018, 20, pp. 93-106. (Corresponding author)

[12] K. Wadhwa, J. Hennissen, S. Shetty, E. Pensini, M. Frissen, S. Leen, G. Kwakkenbos, C. Geijselaers. Influence of substitution of various functional groups on inhibition efficiency of TEMPO analogues on styrene polymerization. Journal of Polymer Research 2017, 24 (11), pp. 201. (Corresponding author)

[13] E. Pensini, L. Vleugels, M. Frissen, K. Wadhwa, R. van Lier, G. Kwakkenbos. A novel perspective on emulsion stabilization in steam crackers. Colloids and Surfaces A 2017, 516, pp. 48-62. (Corresponding author)

[14] X. Wang, E. Pensini, Y. Liang, Z. Xu, M. S. Chandra, S. Andersen, W. Abdallah, J.J. Buiting. Fatty acid-asphaltene interactions at oil/water interface. Colloids and Surfaces A 2017, 513, pp. 168-177.

[15] F. Yang, P. Tchoukov, E. Pensini, T. Dabros, J. Czarnecki, J. Masliyah, Z. Xu Asphaltene Subfractions Responsible for Stabilizing Water-in-Crude Oil Emulsions. Part 1: Interfacial Behaviors. Energy Fuels, 2014, 28 (11), pp 6897–6904.

[16] Z. Li, D. Harbottle, E. Pensini, T. Ngai, W. Richtering, Z. Xu. Fundamental Study of Emulsions Stabilized by Soft and Rigid Particles. Langmuir, 2015, 31 (23), pp 6282–6288.

[17] J. Bi, F. Yang, D. Harbottle, E. Pensini, P. Tchoukov, S. Simon, J. Sjöblom, T. Dabros, J. Czarnecki, Q. Liu, Z. Xu. Interfacial Layer Properties of a Polyaromatic Compound and its Role in Stabilizing Water-in-Oil Emulsions. Langmuir, 2015, 31 (38), pp 10382–10391.

[18] E. Pensini, D. Harbottle, F. Yang, P. Tchoukov, Z. Li, I. Kailey, J. Behles, J. Masliyah, Z. Xu. Demulsification Mechanism of Asphaltene-Stabilized Water-in-Oil Emulsions by a Polymeric Ethylene Oxide−Propylene Oxide Demulsifier. Energy & Fuels, 2014, 28 (11), pp. 6760-6771.

[19] E. Pensini, B.E. Sleep, C. Yip, D. O’Carrol. Effect of water chemistry and aging on iron - mica interaction forces: Implications for iron particle transport. Langmuir, 2012, 28 (28), pp. 10453–10463.

[20] E. Pensini, B.E. Sleep, C. Yip, D. O’Carrol. Forces of interactions between bare and polymer coated iron and silica: effect of pH, ionic strength and humic acids. Environmental Science and Technology, 2012, 46 (24), pp. 13401–13408.

[21] E. Pensini, B.E. Sleep, C. Yip, D. O’Carrol. Forces of interaction between fresh iron particles and iron oxide (magnetite): Effect of water chemistry and polymer coatings. Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, 2013, 433, pp. 104–110.

[22] E. Pensini, B.E. Sleep, C. Yip, D. O’Carrol. Carboxy-methyl cellulose binding to mineral substrates: Characterization by atomic force microscopy based - force spectroscopy and quartz-crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2013, 402, pp. 58-67.

[23] E. Pensini, B.E. Sleep, C. Yip, D. O’Carrol. Forces of interaction between iron particles and aluminum-silicates: Effect of water chemistry, polymer coatings and aluminum-silicate composition. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2013, 411, 8-15.