Lead (Pb) in drinking water is a proven threat to public health, which continues to have devastating consequences, e.g., a series of errors by authorities in Flint (USA) resulted in mass poisoning of the local population. Currently, water suppliers are legally obliged to ensure that the level of Pb in drinking water does not exceed a certain concentration, e.g., 10 mg/l in Europe. Compliance is typically pursued through a combination of pH control and phosphate dosing, which is supposed to result in a surface film of a highly insoluble Pb phosphate salt that restricts the amount of dissolved Pb. Water sampling, however, indicates that this chemical treatment is far from perfect, and that the legal limit of dissolved Pb is exceeded in so-called hotspots. The inadequacy of the chemcial treatment is a consequence of the real-world complexity of Pb surface films, which consist of multiple compounds of varying solubility and permeability, resulting in raised dissolved Pb levels.
Motivated by the above, the goal of this PhD project is to elucidate the evolution of surface films formed on Pb-water pipes and their impact on dissolved Pb levels. X-ray diffraction coupled with electrochemical measurements will be employed to follow film evolution from nucleation to maturity. A particular highlight will be development of a unique operando cell for such measurements, which will allow diffraction data to be acquired over a range of electrochemical conditions in a single experiment. It is anticipated that this exciting programme will initiate a step-change in our understanding of the relationship between surface films and dissolved Pb in drinking water, challenging the current mindset of researchers and other stakeholders, and initiating a drive to produce more complete models for plumbosolvency prediction.
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.
We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).
Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in…
Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science or related subject