Small scale photoelectrocatalytic system for advanced drinking water treatment (PhD research project)

Small scale photoelectrocatalytic system for advanced drinking water treatment (PhD research project)

The focus is to design a PEC reactor for removal of organic Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) from drinking water for small scale systems, particularly suitable for remote areas…


The aim of this research is to develop a small scale Photoelectrocatalytic (PEC) system. The research will target removal of emerging contaminants with potential application to direct potable reuse schemes. The goal of this study is to provide safe drinking water, especially in areas where no advanced treatment systems are in place and for rainwater systems. The work is aligned with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which encourages investigative studies for validation of processes and design of equipment, as well as the continuous improvements and applied research and development to be directed towards investigating improvements, new processes, emerging water quality issues and new analytical methods; validation of operational effectiveness of new products and processes; increasing the understanding of the relationship between public health outcomes and water quality. This is aligned with several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG30), including providing safe drinking water and good health and wellbeing.

PEC systems for drinking water treatment are found in lab-scale, operating in batch mode and are not yet commercially available. Major areas for development include developing design criteria; improve electrodes stability; optimize energy consumption; reduce capital investment; and investigate intermediate products formation. The development of an effective treatment system requires a comprehensive understanding of the process principles and mechanisms, as well as the optimization of components’ features and operating conditions.

The project will take an engineering approach for the PEC reactor design starting from the investigation of state of art (in terms of components) and operational conditions of existing systems; set a baseline for the system design; perform preliminary calculations and purpose system geometrical concepts; search for material and manufacturing techniques availability; validate calculations and prepare engineering drawings for PEC reactor development. The design concept combines minimum mass-transfer limitations, maximum photon capture and minimal resistance between electrodes.

Advances in the light sources will allow the use of a high-power LED-UV at required wavelengths, minimizing the energy consumption when compared to vapor lamps. Tests with target compounds will assess the system’s performance by analysing contaminant removal rates results, optimization of operational parameters, validation of design and investigation of intermediate products formation.


University: Murdoch University

Supervisor: David Henry  

Student: Gustavo Corte Tedesco


Project outcomes:

  • Design and build a prototype of an advanced oxidation process equipment, specific for removal of organic emerging contaminants in small scale (household)
  • Develop a prototype using Additive Manufacturing (Metal Laser Sintering - 3D printing), helping to reduce manufacturing costs and achieve highest efficiency of light incidence            
  • Expand the understanding of the intermediate products formed during degradation process, adding an extra safety barrier to direct potable reuse applications
  • Development of an affordable small-scale system for providing safe drinking water for remote areas where the large utilities able to provide their highest quality of supply 

Industry benefits:

  • Development of an advanced drinking water treatment technology specific for removal of emerging contaminants in small scale systems
  • Extra safety barrier in places where direct potable reuse is intended
  • Assist water utilities to provide safe drinking water for customers, particularly remote areas

Please contact Research Capability Manager Carolyn Bellamy for further project and student information, or refer to the sponsorship page for 'The Process' document.

WaterRA Contact

Carolyn Bellamy | Research Capability Manager 

Amount being sought

$39,000 over three years

Due Date

30th Jun, 2020