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PhD Studentship: Preventing Metal Infiltration from Accelerated WEEE Contamination via Leaching Cryptocurrency Farming Waste

University of Hull

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Kingston upon Hull
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: From £18,622 per annum (22/23 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 30th November 2023
Closes: 5th January 2024

Supervisors: Dr Martin J. Taylor, Dr Amthal Al-Gailani, Dr Ben W. Kolosz, Dr Alaa Elbetany

Enquiries: eei@hull.ac.uk

Project description:

In a world of climatological turmoil and finite resources, we have continued to foul our planet through dreams of digital wealth, increased energy production from non-renewable means and then, in our customary way, we discard our waste to landfill when we have exhausted it. Cryptocurrency mining has globally boosted landfill reserves of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) In the form of circuitry, wiring, storage devices, semiconductor materials and precious metals used in high-performance processors. We have created a surplus of inorganic waste at landfill sites. The generation rate of global electronic waste (e-waste) attained two mega tonnes (Mt) per year and is expected to reach 74 Mt by 2030.

Although individual countries have their own recycling and repurposing policies, developing nations and some developed nations, such as the United Kingdom, have not perfected landfill separation. General household waste will begin to digest metals. In an aqueous phase, the metals will percolate through the waste and enter groundwater. Through soil infiltration and transport systems, metal-polluted water will reach tributaries and or areas of land use, contaminating arable land and destroying biodiversity.

Various metals present risk of leaching possibility. Although in low concentration, many are considered to be not harmful, some have been shown to damage the lungs, stomach and kidneys through prolonged exposure, often resulting in cancers. In some cases, water supplies are appropriately screened for metal contamination, in developing countries this is not always the case and contamination can build up to toxic levels and poison the land as well as broader biodiversity and land workers.

A solution to this problem has emerged through the controlled transformation of biorenewable feedstock materials, structured biochars. Biochars are derived from the rugged lignin backbone present in lignocellulosic waste streams that through appropriate pre/post-treatment, a near pure carbon canvas can be created. Through physicochemical processing a customisable biochar with a defined pore architecture can be produced. These porous materials are capable of rapidly capturing and storing pollutants based in water, be that organic or inorganic where they can be easily separated, regenerated and reused sustainably.

This project will provide students with a full PhD studentship. This consists of:

  • a personal stipend (tax-free allowance that you don’t have to pay back) at Research Council UK (UKRI) rates for 3.5 years
  • university fees
  • generous support for research costs, fieldwork, training and conference travel.

Eligibility:

  • Minimum 2:1 Bachelors’ degree in a field linked to the PhD project. Note that we have recruited successful PhD candidates that changed fields completely. Quite often your skills are more important than specific knowledge that you have.
  • You can apply straight after a Bachelors’ degree, but you will need to show how you are competitive with those with a Masters:
  • Draw on skills you have developed in situations other than your undergraduate project e.g. student work experience, programming etc. 

Apply now, by cliccking the 'Apply' button, above.

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