Thermoresponsive hydrogel development for forward osmosis systems

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Nearly 10% of the world’s population lacks access to reliable water and electricity. To help overcome this socio-economic challenge, we aim to develop a low-cost forward-osmosis module which runs on low-grade thermal energy. The key to unlocking this technology lies in the development of thermoresponsive hydrogels which can act as the “draw” for fresh water through a membrane. These thermoresponsive hydrogels must have a controlled transition temperature near 40oC and must reversibly and reliably expand/contract to several times their volume. Developing this technology could have global impact since most of the world has sufficient solar resources to drive such modules.

The ideal candidate would have either a background in chemistry or chemical engineering with some experimental research experience.  As the project involves chemical synthesis, characterisation, materials performance testing, and prototype development, a high-calibre student with a big-picture perspective on interdisciplinary science and engineering challenges will be necessary. A background of academic communication (demonstrated by a strong track record journal papers – more than one good publication – and conference presentations) will also be a priority. Either a domestic or an international candidate could work for this project, although a candidate from a country which faces challenges in water and electricity access would be given preference.

Supervisory team
Robert
Taylor

Engineering
UNSW-Sydney
Pierre
LeClech

Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Martina
Stenzel

Science
Chemistry
robert.taylor@unsw.edu.au