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MSc (Res), Geographical & Earth Sciences: The composition and pollution implications of waste materials from historic paper making

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The composition and pollution implications of waste materials from historic paper makingThis project will investigate the composition and pollution implications of waste materials from historic paper making, using a case study site at Milngavie, Scotland.

Modern papermaking adheres to strict environmental regulations but historical papermaking processes led to dumping of waste by-products which have implications for environmental pollution. Paper mill sludge, as the main waste product is referred to, is a water-saturated fine material which was dumped in heaps or ponds and dried out over time leaving a fine powdery deposit. This material can increase alkalinity in surrounding soils and watercourses, while ecotoxic metals can be liberated to the wider environment through leaching.

One such historical paper mill where this paper mill sludge is still extant is located at Milngavie, northwest of Glasgow. This site is a good case study for investigating the composition of the paper mill sludge and potential pollution to surrounding watercourses.

Field survey including construction of a DEM of the sludge’s upper surface will map out the distribution of the paper mill sludge on the former paper mill site and give context to the subsequent analysis. Excavation and/or coring of sections through the waste heap will allow determination of any internal structure or variation, and the lead (Pb) content of the sediments will be used to construct a chronology of sludge deposition (by comparison with a well-dated industrial pollution chronology from nearby Loch Lomond). Samples of paper mill sludge obtained from the stratigraphic sections will then be analysed using XRD and ICP-MS to determine their chemical composition and their variability across the site. Microscopy will enable textural characterisation of the waste powder. Water samples will be obtained from the adjacent Allander Water and a pond which was formerly used to power the paper mill. These will be analysed by ICP-OES/ICP-MS to determine the extent of pollution with ecotoxic metals. All datasets will be integrated to build a picture of the history of waste production at the site and any potential pollution concerns.

The student should have a background in geosciences, environmental science, or analytical chemistry. Laboratory experience is desirable although not essential but a willingness to learn new techniques in a laboratory environment is vital. A competent ability in scientific writing, gained through an undergraduate mapping or research project, is expected.

This MSc by Research project will give the student experience in a range of analytical techniques and familiarity with aspects of pollution science. These skills will equip them for further research through a PhD or a career in environmental monitoring and management.

A strong 2:1 (or ideally 1st class) BSc (Hons) or MSci in a related subject is required and an MSc in a relevant discipline is desirable. Relevant disciplines include geoscience, environmental science and environmental chemistry, or similar. For more information on this or similar positions, please contact Dr John MacDonald ().

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