Chemical and Materials Engineering

Surface engineering: Nanostructured composite coatings and surface techniques

Supervisor

Prof. Wei Gao
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG001

This is a materials research project with strong application prospects. Using electrochemical processing techniques, including electroplating, electroless deposition, anodization and their combination, to make micro-nano-composite coatings with improved hardness, wear/corrosion resistance, controlled colour, wettability, antifouling and antimicrobial properties for a wide range of industrial applications.

Nanostructured photo-catalysts for environmental applications

Supervisor

Prof. Wei Gao
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG002

Environmental cleaning technologies including wastewater treatment and removal of air pollutants are a very important area. Our work is to develop innovative oxide photo-catalysts, noble metal doped semiconducting oxides, and combination of catalysts with membranes, and to study their properties including selective absorption, decomposition of organic pollutants and valuable materials recovery.

Hydrothermal deconstruction of pharmaceutical wasteUV microencapsulation of organic liquids

Supervisor

Dr Saeid Baroutian
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG003

Health-care activity generates copious pharmaceutical waste including anaesthetics, antibiotics, steroid-based drugs, and opioids. There is no cost-effective solution for the treatment and disposal of these wastes available in New Zealand. The current practice is for pharmaceutical waste to be autoclaved and disposed of at dedicated landfill sites. This will not deconstruct medicines, and they remain in toxic forms within the environment.

This project aims to develop a novel hydrothermal deconstruction system that can process recalcitrant pharmaceutical wastes. Our preliminary results show that our system can degrade such chemicals to inert materials.

Electrochemical performance of magnesium-air batteries

Supervisor

Dr Shanghai Wei
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG004

Background: Metal-air batteries use oxygen from the air as one of the battery’s main reactants, which have attracted much attention for developing next generation electrical energy storage devices. Magnesium-air batteries have very high theoretical energy density. However, there are some scientific and technical challenges in development of magnesium-air batteries.

Project aims: The objective of this research is to develop a magnesium-air battery system, characterise the microstructure and evaluate the electrochemical properties of this battery system.

Requirements: The student should be enthusiastic and interested in energy storage area. The student must be self-motivated and able to work independently.

Energy storage using thermochemical reaction

Supervisor

Prof. Mohammed Farid
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG005

Reversible chemical reaction could be used to store heat efficiently. This project is to investigate potential reactions suitable for this application. All experimental facilities are available.

Energy storage in the application of air-conditioning

Supervisor

Prof. Mohammed Farid
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG006

A new system was designed and needs to be tested for storing coolness. This is to replace existing ice bank storage system. Pilot scale facilities are available.

High pressure processing of food

Supervisor

Prof. Mohammed Farid
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG007

High pressure processing of food is a new technology to New Zealand. A search for potential local food products to be treated followed by testing one or two products for quality, microbial counts and shelf life.  

Recovery of low concentrations of phosphate by adsorption

Supervisor

Dr Wei Yu
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG008

Phosphorus from sewage effluent and agricultural run-off has been identified as a significant cause for eutrophication, resulting in the formation of harmful algal blooms and causing huge economic and environmental damages. Phosphorus recovery from waste streams is attracting more attention due to the twin problems of aquatic eutrophication and global phosphorus scarcity. Hence, there is a need for technology that can reduce phosphorus consistently at low concentrations (less than 30 ppm), with less reliance on having ideal conditions, and high throughput with minimum waste generation where the phosphorus is recoverable.

Layered double hydroxides (LDHs) are promising phosphate adsorbents due to their excellent anion-exchange abilities and large surface area. However, despite extensive attention paid to adsorption performance, there have been few studies reporting the phosphate desorption behaviour and the reusability of LDHs under low concentrations of phosphate. Therefore, the adsorption and desorption mechanisms of different metal loaded LDHs, as well as their reusability and interactions with commonly seen compounds in wastewater will be investigated. By doing this, an innovative P recovery route to reuse treated adsorbents for phosphorus removal and recovered is proposed. This offers an alternative avenue for resource recycling from waste streams.

Skills required: Adsorption basics, ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy, morphology characterization and data analysis.

Lactose crystallinity measurement

Supervisor

Dr Wei Yu
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG009

Milk powder particles consist of a continuous mass of amorphous lactose and other low molar mass components in which fat globules and proteins are embedded. Crystallization of amorphous lactose in the milk powder particle can increase free-fat content since lactose crystallization results in cracks on the surface of the particles releasing the encapsulated (amorphous) fat. Moreover, amorphous fat covering on the surface of milk powder causes functional failure because the presence of fat on the particle surfaces renders the milk powder hydrophobic, such that its solubility in water is reduced, in addition to making it readily susceptible to oxidation and subsequent rancidity (Pisecky, 1997). Therefore, detecting the crystallinity is important for milk powder quality control during storage. In the literature, modulated differential scanning calorimetry (MDSC) and moisture induced sorption analysis are used to verify the crystallinity of the spray-dried lactose powders. X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Raman spectroscopic analyses are further used to identify different lactose anomers. The micrographs from scanning electron microscopic analysis also indicate a various crystalline nature for the particles. However, there is a big challenge in this area: lactose concentration is lower on the particle surface than in the core of the powder, which makes measurement difficult. So, in this project, different methods for measuring lactose crystallinity will be evaluated and compared.

Project aims/objectives: (1) Test different measurement methods such as XRD, Raman, NIR; (2) Select the best measurement (or multiple measurement combination).

Skills required: Basic milk powder knowledge and data analysis.

Bright phosphors with tuneable light emission for white LED application

Supervisor

Dr Saifang Huang, Assoc. Prof. Peng Cao
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG010

Compared to the traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting sources, white LEDs have remarkable advantages in that they have much longer lifetimes, higher luminous efficiency, and lower energy consumption etc. Phosphors from a single inorganic host from silicates/phosphates will be synthesized, then their photoluminescence (PL) properties will be assessed.

This project aims to synthesise a phosphor with tuneable emission for white LED application. The student will mainly use XRD technique for phase structure analysis, and a fluorescence spectroscopy for measuring photoluminescence properties.

A student with phase analysis skills or knowledge on X-ray crystallography is desired. A suite of advanced instrument will be accessed for this research. Through this project, the student will also develop advanced structural refinement skills.

Controllable synthesis of up-conversion nanoparticles

Supervisor

Dr Saifang Huang, Assoc. Prof. Peng Cao
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG011

Up-conversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) are capable of converting near-infra-red (nIR) excitation into visible and ultraviolet emissions. Such unique optical properties have advanced a variety of applications including super-resolution optical microscopy, deep-tissue bioimaging, nanomedicine, and security labelling etc.

This project aims to synthesise monodisperse nanocrystals (such as NaYF4 based) with controllable sizes via wet chemistry and thermal decomposition method. The effect of core-shell structure will be investigated.

The student will mainly use techniques including XRD (for phase structure analysis), TEM (for morphological analysis of nanomaterials), and fluorescence spectroscopy (for upconversion properties and lifetime measurement).

The student will be able to develop skills on nanotechnology for functional applications, to explore all possibilities in this very hot area. Students with great passion in research are ideal to do this project.

Lens protein biomaterials

Supervisor

Dr Laura Domigan, Dr Manmeet Kaur
Faculty of Engineering
Project code: ENG012

This project is to develop a biomaterial that can perform as a scaffold for tissue engineering applications. The proteins to be used in this project are from fish lenses, and are currently a low value by-product of the New Zealand fishing industry. We propose to recycle these proteins, and use them as high value biomaterials. In this project you will design, develop and characterise the developed new biomaterial in regards to their material properties and cellular response.

Key skills: Able to work independently, think creatively and propose innovative solutions. Experience with proteins and/or cell culture would be useful but is not necessary.