Priority Research Centre for
ADVANCED FLUIDS AND INTERFACES

PhD and Masters Opportunities

The Priority Research Centre for Advanced Fluids and Interfaces welcomes applications from prospective Masters and PhD students.

To be considered, you will need to be fully fluent in English and have achieved excellent results in your undergraduate studies. For example, an average grade of distinction in Australia is a GPA of more than 3.5 in the US and Canada, or a CPI of more than 8.6 in India.

To express your interest, please email your CV, together with certified copies of your undergraduate transcripts and a brief statement of your research interests.



Current projects

The Centre has multiple research projects in progress including:

Project Title: Ionic Liquids and Their Solutions for Biomass Treatment
Primary Supervisor: Professor Rob Atkin (rob.atkin@newcastle.edu.au)
Co-Supervisor: Associate Professor Grant Webber

Biomass is a renewable source of fuel and fine chemicals. Although naturally abundant, biomass is heterogeneous and recalcitrant to biodegradation. A current key road block to the economic viability of a biorefinery is the inability to cost-effectively fractionate biomass into lignin and cellulose streams. This project will examine the use of novel ionic liquids, mixtures of ionic liquids, and their solutions with water for the treatment of a diverse range of feedstocks ranging from food waste to coal into chemicals and fuels. Benchtop studies will be combined with small angle scattering and computer simulations to gain a detailed understanding of the mechanism by which ionic liquids solubilise biomass. This will enable the design of next generation liquids for biomass treatment.


Project Title: Ionic Liquids for Lubrication of Light-Weight Metal Surfaces
Primary Supervisor: Dr Hua Li (hua.li@newcastle.edu.au)
Co-Supervisors: Associate Professor Vicki Keast and Professor Rob Atkin

The ability to lubricate light-weight metals will enable their use in next generation vehicles, which will boost fuel economy and reduce emissions while maintaining safety and performance. Currently, there are no effective lubricants for light-weight metals, like titanium and aluminium. This project aims to combine nano- and macroscale frictional experiments with advanced surface analysis methods (e.g. TEM and XPS) to reveal the mechanisms of ionic liquids as lubricants and lubricant additives for light-weight metals. The designer properties of ILs enable molecular level cause-effect relationships to be teased out in ways not possible for conventional lubricants and additives. This will open a pathway for the design of high-performance and cost-effective IL lubricant systems, which promote the application of light-weight metals in vehicles and smart devices.


Project Title: Selective Adsorption of NO from Flue Gas Using Deep Eutectic Solvents
Primary Supervisor: Dr Alister Page (alister.page@newcastle.edu.au)
Co-Supervisor: Dr Hua Li

NOx are important atmospheric pollutants and the major precursors for atmospheric smog and haze. The primary source of atmospheric NOx is the combustion of fossil fuels, and in particular coal-fired power plants. Current denitrification methods in coal-fired power plants have many drawbacks, such as huge disposable investment and high operating cost, which limit their commercial applications. As such, new flue gas denitrification technologies are required to reduce NOx emissions and control haze. NO constitutes approximately 95% of the total NOx present in typical flue gases. However, currently it cannot be selectively removed with high efficiency and low cost. This project addresses this problem by developing deep eutectic solvents (DES) as a new generation of tunable, stable and cost-effective solvents for flue-gas denitrification.


Project Title: Advanced Solvents for Precious Metal Extraction
Primary Supervisor: Associate Professor Grant Webber (grant.webber@newcastle.edu.au)
Co-Supervisors: Dr Alister Page and Professor Rob Atkin

The extraction of precious metals form low-grade ore deposits is critical to securing the supply of these important components of our high-tech modern society. For low-grade deposits the comminution costs of liberating the precious metals are too high so solvent-based extraction methods such as leaching are routinely used. Many of these processes use solvents that are particularly toxic or environmentally hazardous, such as high concentration acids and cyanide. This project aims to develop new solvents for the extraction of precious metals based on ionic liquids and deep eutectic solvents. Combining experimental measurements of extraction efficiency and solvent recyclability with simulations of specific solvent/metal interactions will elucidate, at the atomic level, the relationship between the structure of the solvent and its ability to extract metals. This knowledge will facilitate the improved design of solvents for precious metal extraction.