Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Haolan Xu

Main Campus
Mawson Lakes

Applications Close
03 Jul 2022

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$28,854 p.a. available to domestic and international applicants

About the project

Develop cutting-edge desalination technology

If you are seeking to advance your career in materials science and interested in the development of desalination technology, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering an outstanding opportunity to apply for an innovative project-based PhD in our Future Industries Institute (FII) in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Interfacial solar steam generation (ISSG) is an emerging desalination technology that utilises only sunlight as the energy source to purify a variety of water types and thus is particularly suitable for deployment in rural and remote areas. Typically, in an ISSG system, photothermal materials (PTMs) with excellent light absorption are floated on the water surface with a thermal insulation support. The evaporation process only takes place on the surface of the floating PTMs where the converted heat is effectively localised and concentrated for vapor generation, leading to extremely high light-to-vapor energy conversion efficiencies (>90%). The generated vapor can be collected as clean water in an enclosed desalination device.

The challenge is that in an enclosed solar steam generation-based desalination system, the condensation of the vapor releases a large amount of latent heat which leads to continuous increase in temperature in the device. This increased temperature is detrimental because it slows vapor condensation and wastes thermal energy.

In this research degree you will aim to develop a multifunctional solar-thermal desalination device to significantly improve clean water production, while simultaneously generating electricity using this currently wasted heat.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will focus on the design and fabrication of functional photothermal materials and evaporators, thermal electrical cells, and the integrated solar thermal desalination-electricity generation devices, as well as test optimisation of the obtained materials and devices.

You will also have the opportunity to collaborate with industry partners to develop technology and devices for practical application.

Upon completion of this project, you will possess an in-depth knowledge of solar-thermal energy conversion, surface and interface physical chemistry, and seawater desalination. In addition, you will have the opportunity to liaise with industry partners, thus providing you with highly desirable networking opportunities to advance your career.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute (FII). FII was established with a new research culture in mind – one deeply engaged with industry, with the end goal of building economic growth through relevant innovation and industry partnership.

FII reflects UniSA’s strategic ambition to be Australia's University of Enterprise, which engages fully with the professions and industry globally, whose research is informed, leading-edge and relevant. The institute continues to forge national and international research partnerships in new industries and technologies that address real world issues. Our goal is to support a creative and engaged culture and to help develop a sustainable ecosystem in which innovation, complex, growth-focused industries thrive.

Supervisory Team

Financial Support

The project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $28,854 per annum is available to eligible applicants. A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included. For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information for domestic students or international students.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to application from domestic and international applicants. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD.

Additionally, applicants must meet the project specific essential selection criteria:
  • Research experience in photothermal materials
  • Research experience in interfacial solar evaporation
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and be based at our Mawson Lakes campus in the north of Adelaide.

Essential Dates

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer. Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Sunday 03/07/2022.

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

IMPORTANT: This site is optimised for the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. Note that earlier versions of any browsers mentioned are supported, but likely to demonstrate slower response times.

By choosing to continue, you agree to the privacy policy. Show Privacy Policy