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Energy Neutral Wastewater Treatment for Small Coastal Communities

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  • Full or part time
    Prof W Sloan
    Dr X Jin
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

2. Overview/Background
One daunting challenge for the Scottish Water Industry is reliably and sustainably providing water and wastewater services to geographically dispersed small rural populations. The prevailing centralised water/wastewater paradigm that emerged in the early 20th century has delivered chemical and energy intensive water technologies that serve dense urban populations in wealthy Western cities. However, this centralized approach is not ideal for half of the world’s population who do not live in urban areas, in both developing and the developed world (e.g. Scotland). The resources (labour, energy, etc.) required to provide water/wastewater services to small rural communities contributes significantly and disproportionately to the per capita water cost. Decentralized (water and wastewater) systems powered by local and renewable energy sources that are efficient at resource recovery and reuse provide an ideal solution. At the University of Glasgow we are making a concerted effort to develop new decentralised technologies through EPSRC flagship grants like Frontier Engineering-Synthetic Biology Applications to The Water Industry (£5M), SUPERGEN Biological Fuel Cells (£3.2M) and most recently Clean Water for All which will bring world experts to Scotland to work with Glasgow university and Scottish Water on decentralised water technologies.
Nearly half of Scotland’s population lives in close proximity (<5km) to the coast and, for example, in the Highlands and Islands almost all population centres sit at the coast. The low population density and the proximity to sea water presents and opportunity to develop a new type of energy-neutral wastewater bioreactor that will ensure that clean water is discharged. There is approximately nine times more energy in domestic wastewater than that required to treat it by using conventional methods (1). Our bioreactor aims to capitalise on the energy inherent in wastewater and in salinity gradients to drive simultaneous electricity production and wastewater treatment in a way that could change the economics of wastewater treatment and incentivise local communities to operate the reactors.

We welcome applications from candidates with a background in relevant subjects (Environmental Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemistry, Microbiology)

Funding Notes

CREW is a developing partnership between the James Hutton Institute and all Scottish Higher Education Institutes, supported by MASTS. The Centre is funded by the Scottish Government.Funding available will be in line with the Research Councils UK doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. The PhD will be registerd with The University of Glasgow.
This is a competition based programme, therefore, candidates are urged strongly to apply as soon as possible so as to stand the best chance of success


1. Shizas, D. M. Bagley, Experimental determination of energy content of unknown organics in municipal wastewater streams. J. Energy Eng. 130, 45 (2004)
2. Kim, Y., & Logan, B. E. (2011). Hydrogen production from inexhaustible supplies of fresh and salt water using microbial reverse-electrodialysis electrolysis cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(39), 16176-16181.

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