Modifying the surface wettability of pyrrhotite by biopolymers

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Australia is a major producer and exporter of copper, gold and other metals. Froth flotation, an economical process based on a difference in surface property, is a key mineral separation process used in the production of these metals from metal sulphide ores. In copper and gold processing plants, flotation concentrates are sold to smelters to extract copper and gold, while flotation tailings are leached to recover the residual gold. Poor rejection of iron sulphide, the commercially worthless material commonly associated with metal deposits, in flotation can lead to unsaleable flotation concentrates. Right now the mining companies need to process more and more metal sulphide ores with a high content of pyrrhotite (a major iron sulphide gangue mineral) due to the depletion of higher quality ores, but have difficulties in rejecting pyrrhotite in flotation. The objective of this project is to make the surface of pyrrhotite hydrophilic by biopolymers so that it can be rejected in copper and gold flotation.

Two types of biopolymers, wheat starch and lignosulphonate, will be examined in this project. Wheat starch and lignosulphonate will be modified to generate the structure-functional features required for selective adsorption and hydrophilization of pyrrhotite against copper and gold minerals. Polymer characterisation, adsorption of modified polymers, determination of conformation and hydrophilization of adsorbed polymers and flotation are the key research methods we will use to develop a successful biopolymer. The successful biopolymer will be tested in the industry in the end of the project.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Yongjun Peng

School of Chemical Engineering


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of flotation and polymer chemistry would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of chemical engineering, resource processing or applied surface science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of colloid and surface chemistry is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process