Description of field of research

Processes for water and wastewater treatment (as introduced in CEIC3004) still feature many limitations, including large production of waste and high maintenance and replacement costs. Recent advances in polymer and material sciences (POLY3000, CEIC6703) can offer opportunities to develop new materials that are more sustainable, potentially biodegradable, and environmentally friendly (CEIC1000, DESN2000/3000 CEIC4000).  

This project will investigate the latest developments in this field and report new sustainable materials considered for (1) adsorption, (2) ion-exchange and (3) membrane technology. These water treatment processes have been commonly used in the industry, but still result in significant environmental impact. In particular, the disposal of spent materials remains a challenge for water utilities. Researchers around the world have already been working on this important topic and it is now important to assess and report on the potential and limitations of new polymers.  

We will focus on sustainable sourced and degradable biopolymer materials like chitosan or chemically modified nanocellulose. In the second part of the project, these materials will be tested with synthetic and real waters in the laboratory, providing hand-on experience to the students. 

Key techniques and expertise (that will be gained):

membrane materials, flocculants, wastewater treatment, macromolecular and organic chemistry, bioconjugation methods, biotechnological techniques (the project can be adjusted based on interest and experience)


Chemical Engineering

Research Area

polymer science, material chemistry, biopolymers, nanomaterials, process engineering, water treatment

"This project is based on new collaborative works between the polymer researchers (Peter Wich) and the water and environment group (Pierre Le-Clech). This collaboration will be the ideal environment for discovering both polymer science and water process engineering.  

The successful candidate will work in a highly interdisciplinary and world-leading research environment. Our research labs are fully equipped for the above-mentioned research project.  

We are part of the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design (CAMD,, the Australian Center for NanoMedicine (ACN, and the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science & Technology (UCMST,

We are looking for creative and highly motivated candidates who enjoy science and are excited about new challenges. Ideally, you are currently studying in one of these areas: (bio)organic chemistry, chemical engineering, material/polymer science, nanotechnology (but also, all neighbouring fields would be ok). Don't worry, no specific pre-knowledge is necessary. As long as you are enthusiastic about science and engineering and willing to learn, you are a good match! Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

As ToR student, you have the unique chance to work on a state-of-the-art research project and make a valuable contribution in the development of new materials for water process engineering.

As part of having a taste of research, you will learn about all aspects of a research project, which will prepare you well for a future career in industry or as postgraduate researcher. You will learn the process of project design, information search, material synthesis and characterization, in addition to gaining valuable aspects of science communication and the work in an interdisciplinary team.

We highly value the work and contribution of all our team members, hence, the potential to be listed as a co-author in a peer-reviewed publication is high.

Research outcomes include:

  • Literature search of latest development on advanced polymeric materials used in ion exchange and adsorbent processes
  • Initial use of novel biopolymers on synthetic and real waters and assessment of treatment performance.

Learning outcomes include:

  • Introduction to polymer sciences and water process engineering
  • Head-start for your Honours thesis and/or PhD studies

Potentiality of polymer nanocomposites for sustainable environmental applications: A review of recent advances 

Recent Achievements in Polymer Bio-Based Flocculants for Water Treatment 

UNSW ChemEng: Environmental processes & technologies 

UNSW ChemEng: Advanced nanostructured materials 

For further information about us and our research interests, please visit: