PFAS Remediation - PhD Scholarships

Work with Australia's best PFAS researchers

Efforts to rehabilitate contaminated environments have netted University of Queensland researchers more than $3.6 million, with UQ being awarded four out of nine grants funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Special Research Initiative. 

The four successful project leaders are:

  • Professor Jochen Mueller, from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences. Professor Mueller will work on a cost-effective soil washing treatment plan for PFAS-contaminated soil. The project was awarded $1.225 million, the most in Australia.
  • Professor Victor Rudolph, from the School of Chemical Engineering. Professor Rudolph will develop a skid-based transportable plant that can be used to convert toxins into safe products: mainly carbon dioxide and harmless salts. The project received $880,187.
  • Professor Jürg Keller, from the Advanced Water Management Centre. Professor Keller will lead a project that aims to use electrochemistry to remove and destroy PFAS from water sources. The project received more than $1 million.
  • Dr Ilje Pikaar, from the School of Civil Engineering. Dr Pikaar's project will focus on removing PFAS from urban wastewater via magnetite nanoparticles, which absorb PFAS compounds. The project received $381,468.

Fully funded PhD scholarships available now!

PhD scholarships are now available to work with the four project leaders on these grants. The scholarships consist of the following components:

  • $27,596 per annum tax-free (2019 rate), indexed annually, for up to four years
  • Overseas Student Health Cover (for international applicants)
  • Tuition fees of $42,000 per year (up to a maximum of $168,000 over four years)
Project leader Contact person PhD project title PhD project description Preferred academic background
Professor Jochen Mueller

Dr Jennifer Bräunig

j.braunig@uq.edu.au

Validation of the total oxidisable precursor (TOP) assay for PFAS-contaminated soils

Understanding the validity of novel analytical techniques and their role in predicting remediation outcomes is a critical component of the SRI study. The application of the total oxidisable precursor (TOP) assay to complex environmental samples and its interpretation has been challenging, calling for a validation of the technique. This PhD project will undertake a thorough validation of the assay. Results from the TOP assay for Australian soils will be related to total organofluorine analysis (TOF) analysis results and the regular suite of PFASs routinely analysed in soils.

*Students will enrol through the School of Pharmacy.

A relevant discipline such as environmental science or chemistry. A strong background in environmental chemistry would be highly valued.
Professor Jochen Mueller

Dr Jennifer Bräunig

j.braunig@uq.edu.au

Investigation of the transformation potential of PFAS precursors under different environmental conditions

Polyfluoroalkyl substances can transform into stable PFAAs (i.e. terminal degradation products) during or after remediation. To ensure that the soil washing and immobilisation techniques developed through this SRI are effective in the long term, it is important to understand the potential for PFAS to form from precursor compounds (Pre-FASs) in soils. In this PhD, transformation of specific PreFASs to PFAAs under different environmental conditions will be investigated.

*Students will enrol through the School of Pharmacy.

A relevant discipline such as environmental science or chemistry. A strong background in environmental chemistry would be highly valued.
Professor Jurg Keller

Dr Marie-Laure Pype

m.pype@awmc.uq.edu.au

PFAS removal in water using advanced technologies This is a PhD project within a larger ARC-SRI project in partnership with Airservices Australia, GHD, QUU, Memtech and Queensland Health. This project is the first stage of the larger project and aims to deliver a ready-to-deploy and scalable modular technology that is capable of:
  1. removing  perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from a variety of water sources to produce safe drinking water and;
  2. concentrating the waste stream with no unwanted by-products for destruction

*Students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

Chemical engineering with experience in water treatment and water quality.
Professor Jurg Keller

Associate Professor Stefano Freguia

s.freguia@awmc.uq.edu.au

PFAS and POP destruction by electrochemistry

This is a PhD project within a larger ARC-SRI project in partnership with Airservices Australia, GHD, QUU, Memtech and Queensland Health. This project is the second stage of the larger project and aims to deliver a ready-to-deploy and scalable modular technology that is capable of destroying perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from a variety of water sources using electrochemistry.

*Students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

Chemical or environmental engineering with experience in electrochemistry.
Dr Ilje Pikaar

Dr Ilje Pikaar

i.pikaar@uq.edu.au

Emerging contaminants in urban wastewater and sludge management - A

Biological processes (and in particular anaerobic digestion), reactor operation, physical/chemical processes and a detailed understanding of emerging contaminants in urban wastewater and sludge management. The student will conduct detailed laboratory scale investigations to fundamentally understand relevant processes and reveal mechanisms, with the aim to ultimately translate the obtained findings and knowledge to pilot plant and/or field investigations.

*Students will enrol through the School of Civil Engineering.

Background in environmental and/or chemical engineering, organic chemistry and water engineering is desirable.

Dr Ilje Pikaar

Dr Ilje Pikaar

i.pikaar@uq.edu.au

Characterization and analysis techniques for solids and gases

Smoldering combustion, sludge management and many characterization and analysis techniques for solids and gases. The student will also learn how to translate fundamental knowledge to practical applications by conducting field trials. The student will conduct detailed studies using bench-scale smoldering reactors to fundamentally understand relevant combustion processes in order to determine the fate of PFAS during the process.

*Students will enrol through the School of Civil Engineering.

Background in environmental and/or chemical engineering, organic chemistry and water engineering is desirable.

Dr Ilje Pikaar

Dr Ilje Pikaar

i.pikaar@uq.edu.au

Emerging contaminants in urban wastewater and sludge management - B

Applied electrochemistry, environmental engineering, reactor operation, and a detailed understanding of emerging contaminants in urban wastewater and sludge management. The student will conduct detailed investigations using laboratory scale electrochemical systems to fundamentally understand the relevant electrochemical processes and optimize the production of magnetite nanoparticles (MNP). The electrochemically produced MNP will be subjected to detailed characterization studies using advanced analytical tools and will be used in comprehensive sorption experiments using synthetic solutions and real wastewater. The student may also be involved in field investigations to determine the effectiveness of the concept and validation under real life conditions.

*Students will enrol through the School of Civil Engineering.

Background in environmental and/or chemical engineering, organic chemistry and water engineering is desirable.

Professor Victor Rudolph

Dr Pradeep Shukla

pradeep.shukla@uq.edu.au

Foam fractionation for separating amphipathic species

Foam fractionation technology is commonly used process where the amphipathic molecules are transported form the bulk liquid to the bubble surface thus forming an equilibrium composition between the interstitial liquid and the bubble surface. The trapped species is then removed from the foam. The focus of this research is the application of foam fractionation for separation of PFAS species from contaminated ground and surface water. The project aims to investigate the kinetics of pollutant separation and optimise design of the separation unit. The PhD program will include experimental investigations coupled with species transport model development.

*Students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

Chemical engineering, membrane based water purification (RO, nanofiltration)
Professor Victor Rudolph

Dr Pradeep Shukla

pradeep.shukla@uq.edu.au

Thermal Plasma based process for PFOS destruction

The Plasma based process is focused on developing a technology for onsite destruction of toxins at contaminated sites. The process will permit remediation of these sites by completely converting all toxins in to safe products: mainly carbon dioxide and harmless salts. Thermal Plasma based chemical processing technology provides a unique opportunity to carry out reaction with exceptionally fast kinetics and residence time usually in order of few millisecond. This feature has been exploited to intensify the conventional process into a low footprint skid based distributed processing plant. The project aims at exploring the reaction kinetics and optimising the reaction parameters leading to the design of a semi-commercial plant. The PhD program will include experimental investigations coupled with reaction kinetic modelling.

*Students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

Chemical engineering, membrane based water purification (RO, nanofiltration)

 

View eligibility View terms and conditions Apply now

Important dates

Applications close: 31 January 2019
Successful applicants commence: April 2019 (Research Quarter 2) or July 2019 (Research Quarter 3)

 

Meet the project leaders

PFAS CIs

Professor Mueller leads research in wastewater epidemiology in the Qld Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences.
Professor Keller is Deputy Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre. He has 20 years experience in water industry research.
Dr Pikaar is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering with the School of Civil Engineering. He specialises in wastewater treatment and resource recovery.
Professor Rudolph leads research in technologies associated with energy and environment in the School of Chemical Engineering.