PhD Scholarship: Silica scaling on RO membranes

  • The opportunity: Industry based PhD to investigate silica scaling in RO membranes.
  • Host institution: The University of Queensland, QL, Australia.
  • Remuneration: Scholarship top-up to $35k per annum for 3 years (based on the student winning an APA scholarship or equivalent).

Need for the work: Salt recovery techniques used by the coal seam gas (CSG) industry for the treatment of water are limited by the formation of scale. In particular carbonate scale and silica scale are causing significant issues for water treatment used across the CSG industry. Reverse osmosis (one of the key water treatment techniques used) has been designed to avoid scale formation. However, field observations indicate that silica is forming and that the formation of silica scale is more complex than first realised.

The project: This project covers the fundamentals of scale formation and removal. The specific objectives are:

1. Understand the chemistry of CSG water impacts on the formation of polymerised silica and mineral silicates;

2. Establish the mechanism and kinetics for removing silica and silicates deposited on RO membranes using existing and innovative cleaning techniques;

3. Identify the effectiveness and the mechanisms of antiscalants to mitigate polymerised silica vs mineral silicates.

The person: You should have a very good Honours or Masters degree, or equivalent in engineering, science or a relevant discipline. It is essential that you can clearly demonstrate research potential, and an ability to thrive in a multi-disciplinary team. An interest in high quality research leading to industry innovation is also essential.

Information about the company: Membrane Futures is a specialty membrane business providing expert support to operators and providing design assistance for membrane systems. Their services for membrane plant operators and engineers include independent membrane autopsy, optimising and identifying appropriate protocols for membrane cleaning, operational support and asset management.

Research environment at UQ: The University of Queensland is one of the top universities in Australia and is in the top 100 in the world. The School of Chemical Engineering ( is renowned for its world-class engineering education, pioneering research, and high quality graduates.

Terms: It is expected that the student will spend the majority of their time at Membrane Futures, and will have a company supervisor in addition to the UQ academic supervisor. Membrane Futures will provide a scholarship top-up to $35k (based on the student winning an APA scholarship or equivalent). There will also be opportunities for the student to get involved in other projects (with opportunities to earn additional income), and to participate more broadly in the operations of the company. There will also be professional development opportunities provided for the student.

HOW TO APPLY: To discuss the role contact Professor Paul Lant (School of Chemical Engineering) [email protected] or Dr Steven Pratt (School of Chemical Engineering) [email protected]

Aaron Thornton

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