Ultrafast molecular separation membranes for alcohol recovery and water purification

A fully-funded PhD Scholarship for 3 1/2 years is available to develop cutting-edge Ultrafast Molecular Separation Membranes with Nanotechnology.  The successful applicant will work closely together with a collaborative network of researchers designing next-generation liquid separation membranes for water purification and alcohol recovery.

Project Overview

Separations are one of the most important processes in various industries, particularly in biotechnology and chemical production.  For example, pharmaceutical production requires the isolation of valuable pharmaceutical products from organic solvents; water must be separated from ethanol during enzymatic biofuel production to ensure the survival of bacteria.  However, they also consume 40 % of global energy output; making them one of the largest energy consumers.  An emerging technology for industrial-scale separations is polymer membrane.  Advantages of deploying polymer membranes in biotechnology include low carbon and spatial footprints, transforming batch processes into continuous procedures, and waste minimization. Current commercial polymer membranes suffer a trade-off relationship between flux (speed of separation) and selectivity (ability to separate mixtures), fouling, and limited lifetime.  Our research aims to overcome these issues plaguing polymer membranes by:

  • Development of cost-effective materials and methods suitable for scale-up production
  • Using nanotechnology to develop next-generation polymer membranes that do not breakdown during operation
  • Transformation of current processes in biotechnology with membranes

The PhD candidate will fulfil these research objectives through:

  • Discovery of new porous frameworks that are compatible with existing materials
  • Creating ultrafast molecular separation membranes using materials developed in the project
  • Benchmark new separation devices against commercial products to provide valuable insight to real-world scientific problems

Research and Training

This research will oversee the discovery of new materials and its transformation into a product viable for industry-scale separation.  The candidate will also work closely with UK-based industrial partners such as Johnson & Matthey, and international partners like the CSIRO, Australia.  This is an exceptional opportunity for PhD students that will encompass:

  • Collaboration with industries and a large interdisciplinary network of world-class researchers
  • Opportunities to present latest data in national/international conferences
  • Discovery and development of new materials that will benefit targeted applications
  • Secondment to CSIRO, Australia

Closing Date: 

Saturday, January 13, 2018
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Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


The research is rewarding and challenging, so applicants should have (or be close to obtaining) a 1st class or 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, or a related subject with strong materials chemistry content.  Experience of polymer synthesis will be an advantage.  The successful applicant will be located at King’s Buildings, in Edinburgh, working under the leadership of Dr. Sam Lau.

Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU students (International students can apply, but the funding only covers the Home/EU fee rate)

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: