The most common end use of biosolids in Australia is application to agricultural land, providing a range of benefits including carbon sequestration, increasing water holding capacity, and providing nitrogen, phosphorus and micronutrients to the soil. Additional benefits of biosolids management, in terms of renewable energy generation, chemical fertiliser offsetting and increased drought resilience, whilst acknowledged have not been comprehensively investigated in an Australian context. This project aims to develop a generic and flexible framework for the solids processing train of existing and new biosolids treatment technologies. It will also develop pathways to enable the comparison of alternative technologies. An existing innovative, economy-wide hybrid life cycle assessment tool will be adapted to enable Triple Bottom Line assessments for advanced transformation of biosolids and its management.

Four PhD positions are currently available under Theme 3B within the ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource (Click on the respective headings below for detailed project information contained in a pdf attachment):

1. Modelling nutrients and substances in wastewater treatment plants and biosolids

This PhD project aims to:

  • track and model carbon and nutrient flows in sludge and biosolids composition using bottom-up approaches on a systems scale and top-down approaches on a national scale; and
  • investigate sustainability on a national scale by benchmarking nutrient flows against critical planetary boundaries.

2. Life cycle assessment of biosolids processing technologies

This PhD project aims to:

  • evaluate the sustainability implications of various existing and emerging treatment technologies, variations in process-specific changes and resource recovery opportunities using life cycle assessment (LCA); and
  • develop a process life cycle inventory database for benchmarking specific unit processes in biosolids processing and resource recovery.

3. Hybrid life cycle assessment of biosolids processing technologies

This PhD project aims to:

  • develop a hybrid life cycle assessment model that combines bottom-up process data and top-down input-output data to represent the biosolids processing technologies utilised across Australia to evaluate the impacts of biosolids treatment options in multiple dimensions; and
  • model and quantitatively assess different scenarios of treatment option uptake across Australia.

4. Co-digestion of organic substrates in Australian wastewater treatment plants

This PhD project aims to:

  • develop a national ‘substrate map’ of waste types, availability, reliability and volumes for the water industry to use for planning and implementing co-digestion;
  • investigate potential substrate security risks associated with substrate supplier(s) in the future and the availability of sufficient volumes to make co-digestion viable; and
  • undertake a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) for the ‘priority substrates’ to understand their potential environmental benefits and drawbacks.

Three other PhD positions are currently available under Theme 3A, 3C, and 3D within the ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource:

5. Fate of emerging contaminants following biosolid application?  This PhD project aims to:

  • determine the fate and persistence of CECs (contaminants of emerging concern) following land application through biosolids application;
  • develop a fugacity model to quantify the fate and transformation potential of CECs applied to land through biosolids across the wide range of Australian environments.

6. Siloxane mapping and behaviours in energy recovery from anaerobic digestion: This PhD project aims to:

  • examine the sources and behaviours of siloxanes in wastewater treatment plants with a focus on enhancing energy recovery;
  • use substance flow analysis to track flows of silicon and understand siloxanes loads in wastewater treatment plants in Australia
  • examine siloxane compounds behaviour in terms of emission rates, behaviours and stability in liquid and gas phases.

7. Community engagement to improve biosolids acceptance: This PhD project aims to:

  • assess means by which to investigate community interpretations of environmental malodour;
  • research effective community engagement tools;
  • provide efficacious, useable community communication tools for industry partners

The ARC Training Centre for the Transformation of Australia’s Biosolids Resource ( aims to bring together Australia’s leading biosolids researchers and key industry and government stakeholders to advance the management, transformation, and reuse of biosolids in agriculture.

Successful candidates will join the UNSW Water Research Centre (WRC) and the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres (ITTC) program. Candidates should have backgrounds in either civil, chemical or environmental engineering, and have the ability to conduct independent research with limited supervision, with excellent written and communication skills, and will be expected to interact regularly with industry partners. Knowledge of sustainability assessment methods (e.g. material/substance flow analysis, life cycle assessment, input-output analysis and hybrid life cycle assessments) is not required but will be beneficial for this position. Candidates need to be successful in securing their own primary scholarship via a Research Training Program (RTP) – Domestic or University International Postgraduate Award (UIPA) or any equivalent. A secondary Top Up scholarship ($5,000) may be available to exceptional applicants.

Applications should be submitted to Prof Tommy Wiedmann (email: with the subject heading “ITTC PhD 3B” and indicating your specific project of interest (Projects 1, 2, 3 or 4 outlined above), along with a cover letter, academic transcript, and CV. Please submit your application by 31 August 2022 to the email address above. This is to ensure that applicants can apply for an RTP scholarship (which closes 30 September 2022) in time to commence their PhD in T1, 2023.