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Cooling and water conservation in desert greenhouses

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  • Full or part time
    Prof P Davies
    Dr S Mahmoud
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Population growth, water scarcity, and global warming require innovative approaches to food production in desert countries. Regions such as the Gulf and the Horn of Africa depend heavily on agricultural imports, making them vulnerable to food insecurity. Protected cultivation in greenhouses could enable local production, but greenhouses in hot countries require cooling which is technically very challenging. And the cost of supplying irrigation water to greenhouses may exceed the value of the crops produced. This PhD project addresses the unsolved problem of providing a controlled climate for protected crop production in hot, arid climates while avoiding excessive consumption of energy and water resources. The project will research concepts for space cooling, desalination, and water conservation based on novel principles using liquid desiccants and membrane technologies – aiming to make the greenhouse substantially self-sufficient in water and energy. The project is offered in collaboration with Professor Mark Tester of the Center for Desert Agriculture, and with Dr Ryan Lefers of the Water Desalination and Reuse Centre, both at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) where the student will be able to take advantage of full-scale experimental facilities. The methodology will include a combination of thermodynamic modelling, equipment development, and experimental testing. Interdisciplinary collaboration will be an essential component of the research, bridging the engineering and plant physiology aspects. The project is expected to result in proof-of-principle of climate-controlled greenhouses that are commercially feasible in desert countries. To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in each school, the funding opportunities for each subject, and guidance on making your application, you can now order your copy of the new Doctoral Research Prospectus, at: Informal enquiries are welcome and should be addressed to Professor Philip Davies ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

It is a intended to fund this project by means of a scholarship from the School of Engineering at University of Birmingham. Applicants with a good first degree in an engineering or relevant science discipline are sought.


1. R. M. Lefers, N.M. Srivatsa Bettahalli, N. V. Fedoroff, N. Ghaffour, P. A. Davies, S. P. Nunes, T. Leiknes, Hollow fibre membrane-based liquid desiccant humidity control for controlled environment agriculture, Biosystems Engineering,183 (2019) 47-57

2. P. A. Davies and G. Zaragoza, Ideal performance of a self-cooling greenhouse, Applied Thermal Engineering, 149 (2019) 502-511

3. R. Lefers, P. A. Davies, N. Fedoroff, N. Almadhoun, M. Tester and T. Leiknes, Proof of concept: Puzzolan rock bricks for salt water powered evaporative cooling in controlled environment agriculture, Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 34 (2018) 929-937

4. R. Lefers, N. M. Bettahalli, S. P. Nunes, N. Fedoroff, P. A. Davies, and T. Leiknes, Liquid desiccant dehumidification and regeneration process to meet cooling and freshwater needs of desert greenhouses, Desalination and Water Treatment, 57 (2016) 23430-23442

5. P. A. Davies, A solar cooling system for greenhouse food production in hot climates, Solar Energy, 79 (2005) 661-668

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Civil and Construction Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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