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Nano-patterning Catalytic Particles onto Adsorbent Material to Enhance Hospital Wastewater Treatment

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Sawtell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Engineering and Materials Research Centre (MMU-EMRC) at Manchester Metropolitan University offers up to five fully funded PhD studentships (RCUK-matched stipend of £14,057 and MMU UK/EU PhD student fees of £4,052, both per annum for 2015/16, plus some research expenses), for an April 2016 start.
For full details of the PhD studentship projects available for an April 2016 start:

Interested applicants should liaise directly with the PhD project Director of Studies to obtain further details on the project.


This ambitious and innovative project seeks to provide a novel engineering solution for the significant medical problem of induced antimicrobial resistance in hospital wastewater. Working with an SME, Arvia Technology, the project involves the development of a new adsorbent material to work in their electrochemical water treatment process.


Hospital wastewater contains a high concentration of pharmaceuticals within it, ranging from painkillers to antibiotics. The wastewater also has micro-organisms present within it, and the presence of antibiotics in the wastewater frequently leads to the development of antimicrobial resistant bacterial strains. This project proposes an engineering solution to this critical issue, in the form of a fundamental pilot scale study of the performance of a newly developed novel adsorbent material in an electrochemical water treatment process.

A graphitic-based adsorbent material, known as Nyex™, is involved in a promising new electrochemical based technology for removing organic pollutants from water. Organic pollutants are adsorbed onto the surface of the Nyex and are then electrochemically oxidised, leaving the surface of the Nyex free to adsorb further pollutants. Arvia™ Technology, an SME, is now commercialising this technology, and there is interest in enhancing the properties of the Nyex. This work leads on from some initial work involving the use of the Surface Engineering Group’s powder coating rig to nano-pattern tin oxide and titania particles onto the surface of the Nyex. Titania and tin oxide are known catalysts for oxidation reactions and were used to enhance the electrochemical characteristics of the material, and hence improve the process used by Arvia. Initial results (Figure 1) have shown that nano-patterning catalytic material onto the surface of the Nyex is achievable, and that the modified Nyex worked in the Arvia Process.

The aim of this studentship is to optimise the deposition of these catalytic coatings onto both Nyex and onto other substrate powders using this novel powder coating process. This will enable the particle size and shape of the Nyex and substrate powders to be tightly controlled prior to the coating process to enhance their adsorptive capacity. Magnetron sputtering allows for great control of the production of the catalytic material during the nano-patterning process. Characterisation of the nano-patterned Nyex will be carried out in terms of their ability to enhance the performance of the Arvia Process in the removal of organic pollutants and microbiological organisms from water.

Reactive Magnetron Sputtering is the proposed technique for coating the adsorbent materials. This will take place in the large area sputtering system in the Surface Engineering Group, which has been specially modified to handle powder samples. This phase of the project will involve the establishment of suitable conditions for depositing metals and metal oxides onto the Nyex. There is substantial opportunity for publications in the characterisation and development of this novel powder coating technique. The novel nano-patterned Nyex will be analysed on site using the X-Ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy and Raman spectroscopy facilities. These techniques will be used to characterise the chemistry and crystal structure of the coated adsorbent materials.

The nano-patterned Nyex will be benchmarked against the current Nyex. This will involve the use of the nano-patterned Nyex in the Arvia Process, with resorcinol acting as a model pollutant. Testing will also take place on typical pharmaceuticals present in hospital wastewater, with the focus being on commonly used antibiotics. Nyex with antimicrobial properties will also be developed in parallel. This will be achieved by incorporating copper and silver into the sputtering process and then testing the modified Nyex in the Arvia process against key waterborne species such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa.


Applicants should hold or expect to hold a 2.1 Hons (or equivalent) undergraduate degree or masters in a relevant discipline such as Engineering, Chemistry, Physics or Materials Science. The candidate should have an enthusiastic attitude towards multidisciplinary research in fields encompassing surface engineering, materials analysis, electrochemistry and microbiology. Applicants should also have good analytical, experimental, project management and communication skills. The candidate should also be willing to travel off site for experimental work and meetings. Previous experience or knowledge of physical vapour deposition techniques is desirable but not essential.


Project is only open to Home/EU students only

Informal enquiries can be made to:

David Sawtell

0161 247 4642
[Email Address Removed]

Please quote the studentship reference: EMRC-DS-2016-1-PhD.

Applications should be completed using the Postgraduate Research Degree Application Form -

Application Form should be emailed to: [Email Address Removed].

PLEASE NOTE that Section 9 of the application should be used to write a personal statement outlining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date.

1st February 2016

Funding Notes

Funded studentships will cover tuition fees at the home/EU rate and an RCUK matched bursary of £14,057 per annum. Fully funded PhD studentships at MMU are only available to home and EU students

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