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University of Exeter funding: Mining and Minerals Engineering PhD

Development of hybrid electrochemical systems for the upcycling of acid mine drainage into functional nanoproducts, PhD in Mining and Minerals Engineering - Self-Funded Ref: 3503

About the Research Project


Dr Rich Crane, Camborne School of Mines, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences



University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

Project Description:

Acid mine drainage is one of the foremost global environmental problems and often ranked alongside climate change, microplastics and ocean acidification in terms of global ecological risk. Despite such widespread environmental impact it often contains dissolved metals and metalloids (hereafter metals) which would be beneficial to recover (e.g. Fe, Cu, Ni, Zn). An intrinsic barrier, however, is that such metals are often present at relatively low concentrations (e.g. <10 mg/L) and as such their recovery and conversion to bulk and/or sheet metal is not typically economically viable.

This project will focus, for the first time, on the integration of electrokinetics, physical forces (namely: microwave energy, ultrasonic energy and/or magnetic forces) and/or low concentration reagents (emulsifiers, chelating agents, complexing agents, etc.) in order to develop a next generation field deployable end-of-pipe “modules” for the selective and precise self-assembly of functional nanomaterials from acid mine drainage using minimal (or ideally zero) chemical additives.

Such technology will be developed and demonstrated in the laboratory and then piloted in the field at two major UK legacy mine sites (e.g. Parys Mountain and Wheal Maid). Synthesised nanomaterial products will then be tested for their efficacy for a range of high value applications (e.g. nanoscale iron-bearing products for water treatment; nanoscale copper-bearing products for antimicrobial activity and nanoscale zinc-bearing particles for gas sensing).

Laboratory and analytical techniques that are likely to be applied will include: the design of novel electrokinetic cells and flow-through systems, anaerobic glove box use, nanofiltration, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy and inductively coupled optical emission spectroscopy.

The project would therefore suit a dynamic and tenacious individual who is both highly adept theoretical and applied electrochemistry yet also keen to undertake challenging fieldwork at a variety of interesting locations across the UK.

For more information about the project, please contact the primary supervisor Dr Rich Crane -

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Entry requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests

How to apply

To apply, please use the 'Apply Now' button above.

You will need to upload the following documents to the application form. Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”:

  • CV
  • Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience. You should also indicate your reasons for wishing to undertake the project.
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained. This should be an interim transcript if you are still studying.
  • Two references (see Reference information section below)
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

Reference information

If possible, please upload your references to the online application form. If your referees would prefer to send their reference directly to the University, please ask them to send these via email to

References should be in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on 14 April 2020


Application deadline:14th April 2020
Value:This project is self-funded
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: PGR Admissions