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Funded PhD Opportunity

SAFEWATER- Household based water disinfection systems

Subject: Engineering


Background: Consumption of contaminated drinking water contributes 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 result to diarrheal illness: nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases. 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 reduce 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 UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund ( Aims: The research project will focus on development and assessment of sustainable low cost waster disinfection technologies for personal or small community use.  Currently, four technologies are recognised by WHO as appropriate for household water treatment at point of use, i.e. boiling, filtration, chlorination and solar disinfection.  Many more are under development but lack the necessary testing and assessment to meet the WHO standards.  In addition, poor adoption of these low-cost systems, and/or poor compliance with the device usage protocols results in low effectiveness in terms of health impact.

This cross-disciplinary research project will focus on a user-centred approach to the development of sustainable, low-cost water treatment technologies.  Solutions must comply with the efficacy standards according to the WHO guidance on household water treatment, consider user friendliness/ease of use of the device including maintenance, and address barriers to adoption and compliance. In addition, the technology will be designed to minimise environmental impact and use life-cycle analysis to identify a sustainable development approach.

Academic impact: This research project should deliver results concerning the development and testing of selected household based 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 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.

Applicants with a background in physical sciences and/or engineering are encouraged to apply for this position.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 26 October 2018

Interview Date
November 2018

Contact supervisor

Dr Patrick Dunlop

Other supervisors


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