Water borne diseases from drinking unsafe water contribute to high incidence of illness in developing regions.  At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated and thus likely to lead to diarrheal illness: nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases (WHO 2016). In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.  Low cost technologies for safe drinking water have significant potential to improve the health of communities who rely on unsafe water, and thus improve their quality of life through reduced illnesses, reduced absence from employment, improved school attendance, improved family life, and less stress on females (normally responsible for water in households).

This research project is directly linked to the SAFEWATER Project, ‘low cost technologies for safe drinking water in developing regions’ funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund RCUK.


This research will focus on innovations in water disinfection that may be appropriate as low-cost interventions for the disinfection of water at household or community level. There are a range of different technologies which can disinfect water e.g. UVC, electrolytic treatment, peroxide, solar peroxide, solar & thermal, ozonation, photocatalysis, etc.  Many of these approaches have been demonstrated to inactivate pathogenic microorganisms in lab and pilot trials, but few have been tested for household or community level disinfection in developing regions.  The focus would be to take a wholistic transdisciplinary approach to identifying candidate technologies and to investigate if they could be made low cost to meet the expectations of the communities while adhering to the WHO testing protocol for Household water treatment technologies. This research requires a strong foundation in engineering or physical sciences.

Academic impact:

This research project should deliver results concerning the development and testing of selected innovative water disinfection technologies that could be deployed in developing regions at low cost.  The research should deliver data and results that can be published in high impact peer reviewed journals.

Overseas impact

This research is part of the SAFEWATER GCRF RCUK project which is a large transdisciplinary research project in partnership with universities and NGOs in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.   The overall goal is to deliver low cost technologies for safe drinking water in rural areas of Colombia and Mexico, and to build capability in the UK and capacity overseas for addressing global challenges.  The research student will be expected to work closely with the overseas partners, including research visits to Colombia, Mexico or Brazil.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.


    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University