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Forward osmosis membrane technology: An enabler for sustainable and resilient water production

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Prof Ewan McAdam  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The following project is hosted by the Water-WISER Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), shared between Cranfield, Loughborough and Leeds Universities. Researchers undertaking the project will benefit from collective CDT training and networking activities across the 3 universities, as well as a network of researchers based at Cranfield.

Forward osmosis (FO) membrane technology promises to deliver innovative services into the waste and water sector. Forward osmosis is seen as a critical enabler in the management of concentrated wastewater, which ordinarily attracts significant treatment and disposal costs, while their risk to the environment and human health, pose a genuine concern. Forward osmosis works by incorporating a ‘regenerable’ salt to raise osmotic pressure, sufficient to encourage migration of water through a semi-permeable membrane, providing a highly pure water product while using considerably less separation energy than reverse osmosis.

Due to the working principles of FO, the concentration/thickening of brines and concentrated wastewaters, can be processed to reduce volume, improve water production, and enhance resource recovery in applications where it was not previously economically viable to do so. This includes the use of FO for the provision of safe water, where desalination, indirect potable reuse and direct potable reuse (as for Namibia), are expected to grow substantially in the global south in response to climate change and population growth.

The successful candidate will work with Cranfield University, while collaborating with industrial partners ‘Forward Water’ and ‘Membracon’ to improve the cost, energy and operability of this fast emerging technology. A key innovation of this technology is the recovery and reuse of the ‘regenerable salt’ which will form a key aspect of the research, requiring resolution through construction of ternary phase diagrams, which can be used to improve systems engineering. The project will be balanced between experimental research, and systems level modelling to improve separation energy demand and system whole life cost. The position will therefore suit candidates with an interest in systems engineering, rather than membrane material development, which the programme will not focus on. Candidates with a background in chemistry, chemical or process engineering, or an equivalent discipline, that can demonstrate strong analytical and mathematical skills (knowledge of construction and use of phase diagrams is desirable) in addition to an interest in practical experimental research, are encouraged to apply. The project will be primarily based at Cranfield University’s internationally recognised experimental facilities, but may also involve pilot scale testing of the technology at an industrial site (possibly UK based), and may involve overseas travel to work directly with Forward Water at their facilities in Canada, for a short period.

This project is open to UK candidates ONLY in this round, as the CDT has already filled its quota of international students for the year.

Contact Ewan McAdam [Email Address Removed] for further information.

Funding Notes

The stipend will be at standard UKRI rates (£15,609 this academic year, rising each year), with up to £20,000 for fieldwork/lab consumables costs.
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