Engineering Chemistry Assignment Topics

Ranked as one of the top Chemical Engineering Schools in Australia (5 Star QS ranking for excellence in research in the world*) the School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW is a leader in fundamental and applied research. With modern facilities, nine research centres and groups working in the areas of Chemical, Food Science and Biomolecular and Process Engineering research, the School of Chemical Engineering is a vibrant environment.  The School is at the forefront of today’s most exciting technological advancements, offering local and international students‡ the very best research training.

We have a number of opportunities for talented researchers to join our school.

*Source: http://www.top universities.com;  ‡ Min admission requirement applies

Projects are available in the following research areas:



Bioengineering and Health

Project title: Multifunctional bioactive nanosheets for disease diagnosis and therapy 

Supervisory team

Dr Sophia Gu, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Rose Amal
 | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Justin Gooding | School of Chemistry, UNSW
Professor Maria Kavallaris | Children’s Cancer Institute 

Project Summary

Recent progress in material chemistry has enabled the scientists to combine therapeutic and diagnostic agents on a single nanoplatform to simultaneously treat and monitor disease. This generates a new concept named ‘nanotheranostics’. The basic approach of conventional therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, is to kill the diseased cells faster than the healthy cells. In sharp contrast, nanotheranostics aim to treat/repair the specific cells and visualise disease development, thus enabling personalised medicine. Although a number of nanoscale structures have been reported as theranostic agents, there are a few key challenges facing nanomaterial development for healthcare application, such as lack of biodegradation, low selectivity and therapeutic outcome. Our research group aims to address these challenges by developing 2-dimensional inorganic nanosheets and utilising microenvironment characteristics of the diseased site. The project is expected to generate a safe, selective and effective theranostic agent (therapeutic agent and/or bio-imaging contrast enhancer) that can ‘find’ the site of illness, ‘fight’ the diseased cells/tissues, and ‘follow’ the therapeutic development.



Clean Energy Technologies 

Project title: Technologies for the storage and use of hydrogen as a clean energy vector

Supervisor 

Associate Professor Francois Aguey-Zinsou, Email| School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
MERLIN research group website

Hydrogen is the ultimate energy carrier. It has the highest energy density of all fuels. It can be readily produced from water and its combustion in a fuel cell or in an engine leads to its own feedstock, i.e. pure water. However, to date the use of hydrogen is limited by the lack of technologies to enable its storage with high density.

In our group we are developing advanced materials to this aim and the associated technologies of fuel cell and water electrolysis to enable the full penetration of hydrogen in the energy sector. Our expertise not only lies in fundamental research but also the translation of our findings in hydrogen based prototypes. Accordingly, we are offering a range of projects along:

  • Fundamental research to fast track the development of advanced hydrogen storage materials based on complex hydrides including borohydrides and aluminium hydrides;
  • Fundamental research in the development of advanced catalytic materials and membranes to decrease the cost of fuel cell;
  • Fundamental research in the development of advanced electrode materials for water splitting for the production of hydrogen;
  • Applied research in the development advanced hydrogen canisters for effective heat management and recovery, novel fuel cell architectures, and advanced hydrogen catalytic combustion methods;
  • Applied research in the development and optimisation of hydrogen based prototypes of industrial scale but also for consumer goods (e.g. portable electronic, bicycles, etc.);
  • Applied research in the development of effective electronic interfaces for the integration of electrolysers, hydrogen storage canister and fuel cells.

Project title: Advanced battery nanotechnologies

Supervisor

Dr Da-Wei Wang, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Batteries are diversified. We enjoy playing with many enabling nanotechnologies to make better batteries that are cheaper, greener, safer, and smarter for the future diversified demands. This is a cross-disciplinary area. All candidates with chemistry, physics, materials, or engineering backgrounds are welcome to apply.


Project title: Two-dimensional organic-inorganic materials


Supervisor

Dr Da-Wei Wang, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Rational bottom-up design of novel two-dimensional (2D) organic-inorganic materials include the synthesis, but not limited to, metal-organic frameworks, layered intercalation compound, etc. The exciting combination of responsive organic and inorganic substances gives birth to unique electronic, optic, chemical and mechanical properties. This class of 2D materials will have remarkable impact on a range of advanced technologies from energy to environment. Some of the materials may eventually lead to transformative advancements.


Project title: Single-cluster electrocatalysis for electrical energy storage 

Supervisor

Dr Da-Wei Wang, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Electrocatalysis has broad impact on energy, environment and sensing. In the age of energy crisis, we particularly devote to making the storage of electrical energy more effective in the form of various chemicals, such as hydrogen, oxygen, or ammonium. Here, the core is electrocatalysis.

Electrocatalysis relies on active sites. Reducing nanoparticles to single atom does not necessarily mean better activity or selectivity. There are many reasons behind this; one obvious phenomenon is that the active sites sometimes can be bigger than a single atom. Identifying the real active sites and developing effective protocols to produce and stabilize the ‘single’ ‘isolated’ active sites, - single cluster-, should be more reliable in terms of advancing catalyst design. 



Food Science and Technology 

Project title: Extrusion and Drying

Supervisor

Dr Robert Driscoll, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW

Project summary 

Extrusion is a food processing technology which can do a wide range of conventional processes all within one piece of equipment. An extruder can shape, expand and texture a product. It can also mix, cook and create pillow structures, very popular with consumers. One thing it can’t do is adequately dry, and so many extruders are combined with some form of dryer equipment, such as fluidisation. Little research has been done into optimal combinations of extrusion / drying. The main variables are the initial product composition (especially moisture), the type of product being made (formed, textured or expanded), energy parameters such as power required per unit mass produced (also called specific mechanical energy), speed of rotation, degree of heating, torque and others. We would like to develop a better understanding of the interaction between the two processes so that we can control them better in commercial practise.

Research Environment: The PhD student will work in the Food Drying Group, using a Brabender KETSE 20/40 laboratory extruder recently purchased for the ARC Industry Hub.

Novelty and Contribution: Twin screw extruders have a complex geometry which is difficult to effectively model, even using high-end techniques such as CFD, simply because of the wide changes in product properties as it changes from a powder to a dough. As a result, little has been done in this area, but its importance to the food industry is very high. Instead of a trial and error approach, we are looking for an intermediate approach, involving practical experimentation plus semi-empirical modelling such as a TOEM approach to improve our understanding in this area.

Expected Outcome: This work will allow industry projects to be developed involving extrusion, so is of great practical importance. In addition development of a new approach to extruder modelling has the prospect of allowing publication.


Project title: Food processing by Radio Frequency Electric Field


Supervisory team 

Dr Francisco Trujillo, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Dr Dr PJ Cullen, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Project summary 

Radio frequency electric fields (RFEF) processing is a new emerging food processing technology that can inactivate photogenic microorganisms  in liquid foods such as apple juice, orange juice and apple cider at moderate sub-pasteurization
 temperatures.  Unlike pasteurisation, where inactivation is achieved thermally, the lethal effect of RFEF is mainly due to high intensity electric fields. Microbial inactivation under RFEF is very fast compared to conventional thermal processing based on conduction and convection.  This allows designing a very efficient process operated at lower temperatures than traditional heat processing.  The problem of heat processing is that high temperature destroys heat sensible compounds. RFEF is able to obtain microbiologically safe foods retaining higher nutritional value and exhibiting better organoleptic properties due to lower processing temperature and time.

The RFEF mechanism of inactivation is electroporation, which is the formation of pores in the cell membrane causing the release of intracellular liquid.  However, the mechanism is not completely elucidated yet.  Besides, scaling up RFEF process is challenging due the complex interaction between the electric field, food material, fluid flow and the heat generated due to ohmic and dielectric heating.  Hence, the aim of this research project is to better understand the complex physical and microbiological phenomena governing RFEF processing of liquid foods.

Research environment: The PhD student will have the opportunity to work within the food processing group and be part of the ARC training centre.

Novelty and Contribution: This is a promising new research area at the frontier of novel food processing technologies. It is part of the search of alternatives to traditional heat processing technologies to achieve food microbiological safety at lower processing temperatures therefore enhancing nutritional value while preserving its organoleptic properties. 

Expected Outcome: It is expected that the successful candidate will participate in international conferences and will publish his/her work in high impact factor journals. This work will expand the capabilities of the student to work in the industry of to continue a research or academic career.


(Expressions of interest) 

Project title: Megasonic assisted extraction of seed oil Supervisor 

Dr Francisco Trujillo, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Project summary 

CSIRO Agriculture and Food now welcomes applications for a PhD top-up scholarship to develop ultrasound based technologies to promote oil recovery in vegetable oil separation process. CSIRO Breakthrough Processing Group now welcomes Expressions of Interest for Top-up Scholarships to PhD students with chemical or food engineering, chemistry or physics background wanting to join an exciting, interdisciplinary team in the priority area of Megasonics. 



Polymer Chemistry 

Project title: Hybrid nanomaterials based on graphene and polymer

Supervisor 

Professor Per Zetterlund, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
CAMD research centre website

Project summary 

The material graphene was discovered in 2004 (Noble Prize awarded in 2010) – it is the strongest material ever measured, and this is accompanied by a range of other extraordinary physical properties such as high thermal conductivity and high electrical conductivity. Graphene is seen as the material of the future, with the potential to revolutionise a wide range of industries from electronics to healthcare, and there is currently immense worldwide research activity in this area.

The addition of graphene as a component of polymer nanocomposites can result in superior material properties – it is a way of combining “the best of both worlds” (polymer and graphene). However, both pristine graphene and graphene oxide are incompatible with most polymers, and do not form homogeneous polymer composites. This challenge can be overcome by use of aqueous emulsion polymerization techniques. In our group, we are designing and preparing novel polymeric nanocomposites and nanoparticles using graphene/graphene oxide and radical polymerization in environmentally friendly aqueous emulsion-based systems. Our research is leading to a range of novel materials and nanoparticles with potential applications in diverse fields such as the coatings industry and nanomedicine. 


Project title: Polymer nanoparticle synthesis using CO2 – a versatile environmentally friendly approach

Supervisory team

Professor Per Zetterlund, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Associate Professor Frank Lucien | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
CAMD research centre website

Project summary 

Polymeric nanoparticles, i.e. particles with diameters around 100 nm comprising polymer(s), find applications in a wide range of areas, e.g. materials science (coatings) and nanomedicine (drug delivery).   Future challenges in this area of research include synthesis of particles of specific composition/functionality as well as shape and size. In the present project, the aim will be to develop a novel method of polymeric nanoparticle synthesis by use of carbon dioxide.  The cornerstone of the project is the generation of aqueous miniemulsions (organic droplets dispersed in a continuous aqueous phase) by use of compressed carbon dioxide.  It entails the addition of carbon dioxide to a relatively low pressure of approximately 5 MPa to a stirred mixture of oil (e.g. vinyl monomer), water and surfactant, leading to formation of a miniemulsion without application of a high energy mixing device.  Under appropriate conditions, a transparent emulsion is formed, i.e. droplets with radius < 30 nm, and the particle size can be conveniently controlled by the carbon dioxide pressure.  The process holds promise of great versatility, and has been successfully utilized with anionic, cationic and nonionic surfactants, but remains to reach its full potential with regards to synthesis of polymeric nanoparticles. Research Environment: The student will work in the well‐equipped Centre for Macromolecular Design (CAMD) laboratory alongside a large number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the vast majority of whom are also involved in related research.  This will be an ideal and stimulating environment to learn what research is all about. Novelty and Contribution: Miniemulsion polymerization has long been heralded the technique of the future, but despite this still remains largely unexploited on the industrial level.  The present project will lead to the development of low energy applications of the miniemulsion technology, with additional benefits in terms of easy adjustment of particle size via the carbon dioxide pressure.  As such, the work is anticipated to be of high impact in the area of polymeric nanoparticle synthesis.


Project title: Precisely controlled macromolecules: sustainable synthesis and advanced applications

Supervisory team

Dr Jiangtao (Jason) Xu, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Cyrille Boyer, Email| School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW  

Project summary 

This project aims to synthesise polymers that have precise chemical structure and mimic the biological activities of natural biopolymers like peptides and proteins. Monomer sequence regulation in these natural biopolymers is important in biology and necessary for crucial features of life, such as molecular recognition, self-replication and catalysis. Current artificial techniques for biopolymer synthesis are time consuming and present low yields at high costs. This project expects its new materials will increase manufacturing sustainability, chemical diversity and industrial viability; produce health benefits for Australia by improving chemotherapy and diagnosis for diseases; and benefit the Australian economy.


Project title: Green chemistry and processes for renewable polymer manufacturing

Supervisory team

Dr Jiangtao (Jason) Xu, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Cyrille Boyer, Email| School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW  

Project summary 

Bio-based polymers are attractive materials to address current global sustainability and to reduce the dependent of morden civilization on petrochemical industry. At present, most of the commercial monomers for industrial polymer manufacturing are petrochemical products which extremely rely on the unsustainable fossil fuel. Development of renewable monomers and their polymers is a high demand objective. This project aims to explore innovative green and sustainable technologies for transforming renewable biomass and abundant feedstocks from natural plants into high valued polymer materials. Meanwhile, this project also aims to harvest solar light by chemical means and utilize photo-energy as energy input for chemical reactions and renewable polymer manufacturing



Process Systems Engineering

Project title:Control of Distributed Battery Energy Storage Systems from a Network Perspective

Supervisory team

Professor Jie Bao, Email| School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Emeritus Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Professor Faz Rahman | School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, UNSW 
Professor John Fletcher | School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, UNSW 
Process Control research group website

Project summary

Distributed energy storage in electrical grids is becoming a critical aspect in maintaining power quality in the scenarios with a high penetration of renewable energy. The scope of this project includes:

  • Based on the dissipativity control theory, this research project aims to develop new scalable distributed control methods for a storage centric approach to distributed energy storage and power management, to improve power demand supply balance and achieve optimal techno-economic objectives including efficiency and reliability in both grids and standalone microgrids.
  • Online battery monitoring and optimal charging/discharging control approaches for Vanadium batteries will be developed by integrating battery design with control design.
  • Approaches will be developed to use Vanadium batteries for both power quality control and demand supply balance control, replacing the existing scheme that needs both supercapacitors for fast transient power control and batteries for slow dynamics.

This project is supported by a current ARC Discovery Projects grant.


Project title:An Integrated Approach to Distributed Fault Diagnosis and Fault-tolerant Control for Plantwide Processes Supervisory team

Professor Jie Bao, EmailSchool of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Professor Sirish L. Shah | School of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada
Process Control research group website

Project summary

Modern industrial processes are very complex, with distributed process units via a network of material and energy streams. Their operations increasingly depend on automatic control systems, which can make the plants susceptible to faults such as sensor/actuator failures. Occurrence of faults is increased by the common practice to operate processes close to their design constraints for economic considerations. This project will develop a new approach to d

etect and reduce the impact of these faults, which can cause significant economic, environment and safety problems.

Based on the concept of dissipative systems, this project aims to develop a novel integrated approach to distributed fault diagnosis and fault-tolerant control for plantwide processes. The key dynamic features of normal and abnormal processes are captured by their dissipativity properties, which are used to develop an efficient online fault diagnosis approach based on process input and output trajectories, without the use of state estimators or residual gen

erators. Using the dissipativity framework, a distributed fault diagnosis approach will be developed to identify the locations and faults in a process network. A distributed fault tolerant control approach will be developed to ensure plantwide stability and performance.

This project is supported by a current ARC Discovery Projects grant.


Project title:Nonlinear Distributed Economic Model Predictive Control for Next Generation Smart Plants


Supervisory team

Professor Jie Bao, EmailSchool of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Associate Professor Ian Manchester | School of Aerospace Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, University of Sydney
Dr Jinfeng Liu | School of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada
Process Control research group website

Project summary

The process industry is continuously under the pressure from global competition and rising costs of energy and raw materials. With the globalisation of the world economy, the last decade has seen the increasing dynamics of the market demand with time varying diversity and quantity of products. This means the business in the process industry needs to have the flexibility to dynamically adjust the volume and specifications of the products and deal with diverse sources of raw materials and utilities to remain competitive. The process industry is at the dawn of next generation “smart manufacturing” (USA) or “Industry 4.0” (Germany) to transform towards demand-dynamic economics, performance based enterprises and demand-driven supply chain services by developing. Current research effort is focused on the development of the information technology architecture for the new generation smart plants. This project aims to develop a fundamental process control framework for this new industry paradigm.

Based on the behavioural approach to systems, dissipativity theory and contraction control theory, this project aims to integrate nonlinear control theory with distributed optimisation to develop a novel distributed economic predictive control approach for complex industrial processes that coordinates a network of autonomous controllers to control a plantwide process to achieve flexible targets (e.g., product specifications) according to market demand and maximises process economy. This outcome will be extended for distributed decision making for extended enterprises in global supply chain networks.


Project title: Advanced Control of Aluminum Smelting Cells


Supervisory team

Professor Jie Bao, EmailSchool of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
Emeritus Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos
 | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Process Control research group website

Project summary

Primary production of aluminium is highly energy intensive, with energy costs representing 22-36% of operating costs in smelters. The long term sustainability of the aluminium smelting industry depends on energy-efficient production technologies for global competitiveness.

As an interdisciplinary project of process control and electrochemistry, this project aims to develop a new automatic control approach for aluminum smelting cells to provide much tight control of key distributed process variables in both spatially and temporally. The outcomes will be integrated in the control subroutines and work practices. This will significantly improve the energy and environmental efficien

cies of operation of aluminium smelters.

This project is supported by one of the major aluminium companies.



Water Treatment 

Title: Advances in aeration process for water treatment 

Supervisor

Associate Professor Pierre Le-Clech, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 
UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology website

Project summary 

Given the potential risk associated with Legionella growth and persistence in engineered processes such as aerator systems used during water treatment, this project will be commissioned to describe our current understanding of aeration processes and their operating challenges, especially in a temperate climate. The identified gaps in knowledge are to be used to develop the following research activities:

  • Improved risk assessment through quantitative measurement of aeration performance,
  • Investigation of appropriate options for mitigation, cleaning and maintenance of current aerators,
  • Development of guidelines for new aerator design,
  • Development and assessment of appropriate monitoring and modeling tools for process performance and maintenance.

Research Environment: Not only the student will be working within the world renowned UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology, this project will be based on significant collaboration with our industrial partner, Water Corporation in Western Australia. Given the nature of the study, many aspects will rely on complementary skills offered by the research team, at both UNSW and Water Corp. This will offer a great opportunity for the student to significantly increase his/her core knowledge within a wide range of topics. 

Novelty and Contribution: The practical contribution of this project on the health and safety of the plant operators and local community is of great significance. The access to plants combined with advanced sampling and analysis of aerators deposits will offer new insights to this challenge, and the development of new operational strategies. In addition, new analytical tools and statistical tests will be developed for this specific application.

Expected outcome: Ultimately, the project is expected to produce a set of guidelines to be used within the water industry for the design, operation and maintenance of aerator systems in water treatment. Obviously, a number of scientific articles and conference presentations will also be produced within the duration of the project.  


Project title: Ultrasonic Assisted Plasma for water Detoxification

Supervisor

Dr Francisco Trujillo, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW 

Project summary 

Ultrasonic Assisted Plasma Detoxification (UAPD) is a novel process for complete mineralization of recalcitrant pollutants in wastewater. Ultrasound is injected into the fluid via a horn that emits acoustic waves also producing cavitation bubbles in the liquid. This is because high-power ultrasound results in the expansion, compression and final implosion of gas micro-sized bubble dissolved in the liquid phase. The extreme collapse of the bubbles produce local temperatures of up to 5,000oK and pressures of up to 50 MPa. On the other hand, underwater plasma is produced via Radio Frequency electromagnetic waves.  The mechanism of this technology is still unknown but is based on the synergism of cavitation bubbles that facilitate and sustain the plasma formation. The plasma produces radical species that mineralize pollutants. The advantage of this new technology is that it can completely detoxify and sanitize wastewater while producing hydrogen that can be used as a clean source of energy.

Research environment: The PhD student will have the opportunity to work with members of the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology as well as wastewater treatment groups within the school of chemical engineering.

Novelty and Contribution: Developing a new technology that potentially can achieve complete water detoxification and sanitation while producing hydrogen.

Expected Outcome: It is expected that the successful candidate will participate in international conferences and will publish his/her work in high impact factor journals. This work will expand the capabilities of the student to work in the industry or to continue a research or academic career.


Project title: Characterisation of taste and odour compounds produced by cyanobacteria/algae

Supervisory team

Professor Richard Stuetz, Email | School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW
Dr Arash Zamyadi, Email | Faculty of Engineering, UNSW 
Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

Cyanobacteria are increasingly challenging the capability of drinking water and advanced wastewater treatment works to meet Australian drinking and recycled water guidelines due to the release of metabolites including cyanotoxins and taste and odour (T&O) compounds that adversely impact water quality. 2-methylisoborneol (2-MIB) and geosmin (produced by cyanobacteria) are considered to be the dominated T&O compounds. However, in order to take steps in a timely manner to prevent them entering the distribution system it is necessary to be able to accurately measure these compounds and potentially other compounds (produced by cyanobacteria and other phytoplankton communities) that also contribute to T&O complaints in water supplies. As more sophisticated analytical approaches are developed to investigate T&O compounds, we are able to apply these techniques to have a more comprehensive understanding of T&O causing compounds so that better risk management strategies for their management, including mitigation and treatment, can be established. The successful student will join the ARC Linkage project team that entails a substantial collaboration between the School of Chemical Engineering, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Australian Water Quality Centre (SA Water, Adelaide), National Cheng Kung University (Taiwan) and a further six industry partners. The student will have access to state-of-the-art analytical equipment available in the UNSW Water Research Centre, Water Quality Laboratories, including the ‘UNSW Odour Laboratory’. 

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Natural organic matter monitoring in a water supply catchment: Novel techniques, long term trends and impact on treatability 

Supervisor 

Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

NOM treatment by water treatment plants is necessary to keep concentrations of potentially harmful disinfection by-products below those that could cause harm. It is well understood that natural organic matter (NOM) character as well as concentration impacts its treatability by water treatment processes and that concentration and character can change over time. In situ and on-line monitoring of both NOM character and concentration is therefore of benefit in any water supply catchment subject to NOM variability. However, the most appropriate monitoring method is a question that requires investigation. A PhD top-up scholarship operating and allowance is available for a successful APA/IPRS (or equivalent) applicant to conduct a PhD project on the topic: Natural organic matter monitoring in a water supply catchment: Novel techniques, long term trends and impact on treatability. The PhD is funded through an ARC Linkage grant (LP160100620) supported by the Sydney Water Corporation and Water NSW and seeks to evaluate novel in situ spectroscopic techniques both in the catchment and within water treatment plants to determine the most appropriate protocol for monitoring NOM changes relevant to treatment. 

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Advanced molecular characterisation of surface water organic matter 

Supervisor 

Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

Surface water organic matter is frequently subject to characterisation using techniques such as size exclusion chromatography with trace organic carbon detection and fluorescence excitation-emission spectroscopy. However, there is a distinct lack of understanding as to the molecular composition of the size fractions of fluorescent peaks that are observed. This project seeks to apply advanced molecular characterisation techniques, for example NMR and high resolution mass spectrometry, and data analysis techniques to elucidate the composition of chemical structures. 

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Assessing granular activated carbon capacity for algal taste and odour removal: Development of a predictive tool

Supervisory team

Dr Arash Zamyadi, Email | Faculty of Engineering, UNSW 
Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Richard Stuetz, Email | School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

The presence of cyanobacteria and algae in water sources and within water treatment plants is a problem increasingly faced by water supply managers. Climate change effects provide more favourable conditions for cyanobacterial and algal growth in warm and temperate climates leading to more frequent bloom events. Several cyanobacterial and algal species are potent producers of taste and odour (T&O) compounds. Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB) are two commonly detected cyanobacterial T&O compounds in water. They impart an earthy musty taste and/or odour which can lead to customer complaints. Application of granular activated carbon (GAC) contactors or filter caps to control T&O compounds is wide spread practice within the water industry. However, it is difficult to determine whether the GAC has sufficient remaining adsorptive capacity to control a T&O event should one occur. This PhD project will seek to develop a model that informs the ability of existing GAC contactors to control influent T&O compounds.

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Release of Intracellular Cyanotoxins during Oxidation of Natural Bloom Samples and Laboratory Cultured Cells

Supervisory team

Dr Arash Zamyadi, Email | Faculty of Engineering, UNSW 
Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Professor Richard Stuetz, Email | School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

Successful oxidation of toxic cyanobacteria cells and their associated toxins is a major challenge for water utilities during water treatment and wastewater reuse due to unknown phenomena that govern the process. The available literature regarding intracellular release during oxidation focuses on a limited range of treatment conditions using primarily laboratory cultured cells and few mass balance determinations with total, intracellular, and extracellular cyanotoxin measurements. In order for water utilities to improve their response to cyanobacterial blooms, several knowledge gaps regarding the fate of intracellular cyanotoxins during oxidation of naturally occurring toxic cyanobacteria cells in fresh water, and wastewater lagoons and stabilisation ponds need to be addressed. This research project will build upon the previous research to focus more on conditions practical for water treatment and wastewater reuse, and provide improved mass balance information for total, intracellular, and extracellular cyanotoxin concentration. A framework will be generated to create guideline values for oxidation conditions where (1) the intracellular cyanotoxin will be released, and (2) fluorescence-based probe measurements indicate when cell damage has occurred. 

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Impact of cyanobacteria cell and organic matter properties on cyanotoxin oxidation efficiency and downstream treatment

Supervisory team

Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
Dr Arash Zamyadi, Email | Faculty of Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

Climate change is exacerbating the issue of toxic cyanobacterial blooms and associated toxin release in drinking water sources, recreational waters and treated wastewater lagoons. Failure to thoroughly understand and apply oxidation of cyanotoxins can lead to the persistence of these toxins in treated water destined for human consumption. This project will study the impact of water and cellular organic matter on oxidation of cyanotoxins and the chemical reactions that govern the process, resulting in improved understanding of oxidation process and development of accurate oxidation kinetics. The project will (1) deliver an accurate cyanotoxin oxidation kinetics model and efficient oxidation technique to minimise public health risks, (2) advance the knowledge base on oxidation of cyanotoxins that will enable the selection of appropriate treatment design parameters, (3) create the potential to realise savings in reduced oxidant dosing and reduce treatment cost, improve understanding on the impact of downstream treatment processes.

More project details and how to apply. 


Project title: Recyclable green coagulants for the solid-liquid separation of algae 

Supervisor 

Dr Rita Henderson, Email | School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW
BioMASS Lab research group website

Project summary 

The separation process of microalgae and cyanobacteria receives a lot of scientific interest today in the framework of various applications such as water treatment and biomass production. The occurrence of microalgae and cyanobacterial blooms are increasingly challenging the operational capability of drinking water and advanced wastewater treatment to meet Australian drinking and recycled water guidelines due to the release of metabolites including cyanotoxins and taste and odour (T&O) compounds that adversely impact water quality. In the framework of biomass production; cheap and effective separation of microalgae/cyanobacterial biomass is a crucial process in the overall design of economical biomass production to be applied in novel food, feed or fuel applications. Both for water treatment and biomass production, novel coagulation-based separation methods (sedimentation or flotation) are desired to optimize existing and designing future separation strategies.

Metal coagulants, such as (poly)aluminium and ferric salts, or synthetic polymers, such as polyacrylamides, have been applied for decades in water treatment and mining industry. However, in most cases, the use of those type of coagulants is costly, leading to the production of large sludge volumes. Secondly, it could lead to toxic contamination of the separated biomass when applied in microalgae/cyanobacterial biomass production processes. Therefore, research in the development and application of novel green and recyclable coagulants is needed to improve the separation process. This PhD project will therefore investigate the potential of novel green and recyclable coagulants to be used in separation processes for microalgae/cyanobacteria.

More project details and how to apply. 


Advanced Materials and Nano-materials

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This Virtual Special Issue of ACS Catalysis highlights “Catalysis at U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories,” covering a wide range of research topics in heterogeneous catalysis, homogeneous/molecular catalysis, electrocatalysis, and surface science. Read more.

Environmental Nanotoxicology


The field of nanotechnology has expanded rapidly, entering sectors that impact all aspects of our lives. In spite of this, the general consensus among the scientific community is that our understanding of the fate and effects of engineered nanomaterials is currently inadequate to accurately assess risk. Nanotoxicology has evolved as the discipline to fill in critical gaps in understanding of the potential adverse effects of nanomaterials. Read more.

Bioconjugates for Chemical Biology


here is a strong intellectual connection between bioconjugate chemistry and chemical biology. Both research areas use the tools of chemistry to exploit biological processes for desired purposes (e.g., drug delivery) and explore the frontiers of biology. Read more.

Best Practices for Reporting the Properties of Materials and Devices


Writing up your research accomplishments for publication represents the culmination of many months, or years, of effort, often by many people, on a project. Publishing is the currency of science, but results that are interesting in and of themselves are insufficient for publication – the data and analyses need to be convincing to the reader with respect to their soundness and substance. Read more.

Nanoreactors: Small Spaces, Big Implications in Chemistry


In recent years, chemists have worked to understand how fundamental chemical principles change when systems are confined to spaces with nanoscale dimensions or sub-microliter volumes. These so-called “nanoreactors” change the basic chemical nature of molecules and moieties within them, and alter how they behave in chemical reactions. Read more.

Behavioral Research in Chemical Neuroscience


The field of behavioral neuroscience aims to unravel the neural mechanisms governing the cognitive, emotional, and sensory functions that comprise human and animal behavior. Fundamentally, chemical signaling underlies the manifestation of behavior, as well as behavioral dysfunction arising from neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric disorders, and addiction. Read more.

Atmospheric Physical Chemistry


This collection contains 25 papers published in the Atmospheric Chemistry section of the Journal of Physical Chemistry A (JPC A) since 2013. The vision is that this collection will be useful for generating new ideas, pushing existing boundaries, and motivating new research in atmospheric chemistry. Read more.

Invited Papers from ACS Boston


This Virtual Special Issue is devoted to papers from authors who made outstanding presentations at the 250th ACS National Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. We asked session chairs and symposia organizers within a few divisions that align with I&EC Research subject areas to identify the best presentation from their session. Read more.

Enzymology in Chemical Toxicology Beyond P450s


Over the years, Chemical Research in Toxicology (CRT) has published numerous papers on the metabolic activation and detoxication of many toxicants and their mechanisms of action. This Virtual Issue features a collection of manuscripts that are concerned with the roles of non-P450 enzymes and other proteins in toxicology that were published within the past two years. Read more.

Margaret C. (Peggy) Etter Virtual Memorial Issue


2017 will mark a quarter of a century since the premature death of Margaret C. (Peggy) Etter at the age of 48. She became a scientist during the 1960s renaissance of organic state chemistry pioneered by Gerhard Schmidt and Mendel Cohen at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and David Curtin and Iain Paul at the University of Illinois. Read more.

Catalysis in The Netherlands


This Virtual Special Issue of ACS Catalysis highlights “Catalysis in The Netherlands,” a leading country in catalysis research. Several factors make this country unique: (i) the large chemical ‘ecosystem’ in the region, (ii) the nature of collaborative work, and (iii) the tradition of research schools established within large-scale R&D groups at Dutch universities. Read more.

Process Intensification


This Virtual Issue is devoted to the topic of process intensification. We collected articles published recently in this important area of research, which aims to make unit operations such as heat transfer, reaction, separation, or mixing more efficient. Read more.

Classics in Chemical Neuroscience


In 2013, ACS Chemical Neuroscience initiated the “Classics in Chemical Neuroscience” review series. Each review in this unique installment describes a significant pharmacological advance in CNS-related disorders, detailing the development, chemistry, and mechanism of action of CNS agents. Read more.

In Memory of Ahmed Zewail


This collection serves as a memorial to Ahmed Zewail, the father of Femtochemistry, who passed away on August 2, 2016. It contains 25 papers published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry (including parts A, B and C) by Zewail and his collaborators during the 1984-2007 period including papers that highlight Zewail’s development of femtosecond pump/probe and ultrafast electron diffraction experiments as well as the transition from gas phase isolated molecule studies, to dynamics in clusters, and then to ultrafast processes in liquids and in biological systems. Read more.

Adverse Outcome Pathways


Environmental toxicologists supporting risk assessments of human or ecological health are responsible for generating data for possible adverse effects of a rapidly increasing number of substances. New approaches in systems biology and systems toxicology aim to computationally reconstruct core components of molecular, cellular and organ level networks that are responsible for normal functions or adverse outcomes due to chemical exposure. Read more.

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