PhD Studentship: Innovative and sustainable materials for the remediation of wastewaters from the t


The proposed project aims to develop advanced nanomaterial-based technological solutions to address the worldwide need for clean water and minimisation of water pollution. The work will be focussing on the clean-up of effluents from the textile industries in developing countries, thus addressing the global challenge “Engineering/technology in development contexts”. The innovation will centre around a low-cost plant-based fibre, which can be functionalised with a range of nanoparticles to deliver versatile and targeted pollutant removal. The supervisory team will include two UoB supervisors, a UK SME and two Indian partners (academic and industry).


Project need

The project will address the need in the developing world for the textile industry to remediate residual dyes in effluents at low cost, thus reducing the burden on the environment and ecology (particularly water resources). The textiles industries have an important role in the developing countries. For example in India they represent 20% of industrial production, 9% of excise collection, 30% of export revenue and 18% of industry employment. The textile industry in India traditionally, after agriculture, is the only industry that has generated huge employment for both skilled and unskilled labour in textiles and continues to be the second-largest employment-generating sector in India. It offers direct employment to over 35 million in the country. In 2009–2010, the Indian textile industry was valued at US$55 billion, 64% of which services domestic demand. In 2010, there were 2,500 textile weaving factories and 4,135 textile finishing factories in all of India. However, this industry comes at a cost: according to the World Bank, 20% of water pollution globally is caused by textile processing. The textile industry uses more than 8,000 chemicals, including heavy-metal-rich dyes and fixing agents, bleaches, solvents, and detergents, many of which are toxic and persistent.



The work will aim to optimise Nanofique, a patented plant-based bionano-composite and nanostructured material. Nanofique has shown promising performance with textile effluents, but could benefit from further optimised to enable tailoring to the variety and complexity of textile effluents. Work to date has demonstrated that Nanofique can degrade the dyestuff in textile dye wastewater removing the colour without producing sludge. This has been tested against the dyes used in denim factories, Indigo Carmine and Sulphur black, using actual wastewater from a variety of factories. A key further aspect of the work will involve testing the potential regeneration of the material (and recovery of dyes and/or metals from the effluent, which will make the technology more versatile and affordable. The work will also look at ways of optimising the product structure and manufacturing method to increase its life span and hence reduce its usage cost. Once laboratory trials are completed, field and pilot on site (India) trials will be carried out.

The lab testing will involve small static laboratory experiments using model waters and water samples from a site in India for testing and optimisation. An additional task here is to ensure thorough characterisation of effluents in a variety of operating conditions and over a period of 6 months. A final task would be to provide detail characterisation of remediation materials (Nanofique and its various modifications) before and after all test, and following serial trials, as well as regeneration tests. Other materials (UV-activated inorganic nanocomposite) will also be tested in parallel experiments with the same rigorous criteria as a comparison. A key component of the research is to study in detail the kinetics and the mechanism of dye removal, as well as Nanofique regeneration.


Expected outcomes

The intended outcome of the project are to provide a waste free solution, that is quick, uses little space, is as cost effective as possible with any costs offset by revenue from the useful products produced. It is also aim to enable complete water recycling, reducing the effects of water stress. The solution has a disruptive potential on the textile wastewater treatment market which currently remains poorly regulated in developing countires because of the lack of affordable solutions and the need for economic growth. The technology pioneered by the proposed project can be used throughout the textile dyeing wastewater industry.