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Development of hybrid electrochemical systems for the upcycling of acid mine drainage into functional nanoproducts

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, September 16, 2019
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Lead supervisor: Dr Rich Crane, Camborne School of Mines, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Location:University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

Project Description:

Acid mine drainage is one of the foremost global environmental problems and often ranked alongside climate change, microplastics and ocean acidification in terms of global ecological risk. Despite such widespread environmental impact it often contains dissolved metals and metalloids (hereafter metals) which would be beneficial to recover (e.g. Fe, Cu, Ni, Zn). An intrinsic barrier, however, is that such metals are often present at relatively low concentrations (e.g. <10 mg/L) and as such their recovery and conversion to bulk and/or sheet metal is not typically economically viable.

This project will focus, for the first time, on the integration of electrokinetics, physical forces (namely: microwave energy, ultrasonic energy and/or magnetic forces) and/or low concentration reagents (emulsifiers, chelating agents, complexing agents, etc.) in order to develop a next generation field deployable end-of-pipe “modules” for the selective and precise self-assembly of functional nanomaterials from acid mine drainage using minimal (or ideally zero) chemical additives.

Such technology will be developed and demonstrated in the laboratory and then piloted in the field at two major UK legacy mine sites (e.g. Parys Mountain and Wheal Maid). Synthesised nanomaterial products will then be tested for their efficacy for a range of high value applications (e.g. nanoscale iron-bearing products for water treatment; nanoscale copper-bearing products for antimicrobial activity and nanoscale zinc-bearing particles for gas sensing).

Laboratory and analytical techniques that are likely to be applied will include: the design of novel electrokinetic cells and flow-through systems, anaerobic glove box use, nanofiltration, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy and inductively coupled optical emission spectroscopy.

The project would therefore suit a dynamic and tenacious individual who is both highly adept theoretical and applied electrochemistry yet also keen to undertake challenging fieldwork at a variety of interesting locations across the UK.

For more information about the project, please contact the primary supervisor Dr Rich Crane -

Information about current fees:

Information about possible funding sources:

Information about Doctoral Loans:

Funding Notes

This project is self funded.

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