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Towards “Precision Mining” of wastewater: Development of modular electrochemical systems for the in situ upcycling of acid mine drainage into functional nanoproducts (Funded by the QUEX Institute)


College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Monday, August 31, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Project Description

The problem:
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is an acidic solution created by the oxidation of sulphide minerals, typically associated with areas of legacy metalliferous and coal mining. It is an extremely widespread environmental issue, and often ranked alongside climate change, microplastics and ocean acidification in terms of global ecological risk.

In the UK the vast majority of mining activity ceased several decades ago, however, as much as 6% of all surface water bodies are still currently adversely affected by AMD. A similar but larger scale scenario exists in Australia where widespread historic and current mining activity has resulted in a total annual AMD management cost of approximately $500m AUD.

Despite such widespread environmental and financial cost AMD often contains dissolved metals and metalloids (hereafter metals) which would be beneficial to recover (e.g. Fe, Cu, Ni, Zn). An intrinsic barrier, however, is that they are often present at relatively low concentrations (e.g. <10 mg/L) and as such their recovery and conversion to bulk and/or sheet metal is not typically economically viable.

The solution:
This PhD project will focus, for the first time, on the integration of electrokinetics, physical forces (namely: microwave energy and ultrasonic energy) and/or low concentration reagents (emulsifiers, chelating agents, complexing agents, etc.) in order to develop next generation field deployable endof-pipe “modules” for the selective and precise self-assembly of functional nanomaterials from AMD, using minimal (or ideally zero) chemical additives. This process, known as “upcycling” will, if successful, enable the direct conversion of metals within AMD into high value products and thereby unlock an entirely new economic incentive for such AMD treatment.

How to apply

For more information about this studentship including how to apply, please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=3897

Funding Notes

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship

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