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Funded PhD Opportunity

Sustainable Technologies in Energy, Water and Agriculture for Rural Development (STEWARD)

Subject: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


Summary

This PhD will explore the water-energy-agriculture (WEA) nexus and its importance in the context of achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Farming is essential for food security and economic development. Agriculture is vulnerable to climate change and is a major water consumer. Reduced rainfall frequency, variable surface water availability due to drought/flood extremes, and increased irrigation demands caused by rising global temperatures, makes groundwater an increasingly important resource. Drawing water from boreholes and distributing irrigation to crops requires energy. Unsustainable groundwater extraction at rates greater than natural recharge flows leads to aquifer depletion, saline contamination, and increased pumping energy demands associated with deepening boreholes. Rural communities across SSA lack electricity access due to remoteness from urban infrastructure and prohibitive grid expansion costs. Falling photovoltaics prices are increasingly enabling off-grid electricity infrastructure deployments which can stimulate economic development. Most off-grid PV systems utilise batteries to enable lighting at night and ensure continuous power for equipment such as refrigerators keeping agricultural produce fresh. Batteries are typically the most expensive system component and the need for periodic replacement represents an affordability and waste disposal sustainability challenge. Small-scale water pumping and distribution in rural SSA has traditionally relied upon manual labour. Large-scale irrigation requires fossil-fuel driven pumps which exacerbate climate change and represent significant capital and operational costs. Using PV to power water pumps is increasingly recognised as the most viable and sustainable option.

This PhD study aims to develop a novel technical solution or new approach which addresses a specific WEA nexus challenge, to be identified by the candidate from amongst a range of themes such as:

* Energy and water demand in agricultural irrigation systems. Potential for techno-economic optimisation with respect to agricultural yields by improving water use efficiency and reducing pump energy consumption.

* Practical feasibility and technoeconomic viability of replacing petrol/diesel driven borehole and irrigation pumps with using off-grid PV systems which simultaneously providing rural communities with affordable and reliable electricity access.

* Synergies between energy and water storage across diurnal and seasonal timescales. Possibilities for utilising elevated water tanks as environmentally benign low-cost potential energy stores in combination with household / farm / community scale hydro-kinetic electricity generators.

* Monitoring and managing groundwater resources to facilitate safe and sustainable consumption. Techniques and systems for gathering and analysing data on depths, quality, and aquifer abstraction/recharge rates at local and national scales.

* Affordable, maintainable, energy efficient water treatment solutions (filtration, purification, desalination etc) applicable to rural communities at household / farm / village scale.

Specific PhD study objectives are to:

* Examine a broad range of WEA nexus themes through literature review and engagement with academics/practitioners to identify a specific challenge.

* Identify key performance indicators and state-of-the-art benchmarks against which to assess success of new/novel solutions/approaches.

* Develop methodologies evaluating technical feasibility, economic viability, efficacy, etc.

* Formulate concepts for novel technical solutions and new approaches.

* Rationally identify a chosen option.

* Realise chosen solution/approach through design, fabrication and testing of prototypes and/or development and validation of simulation models.

* Test chosen solution/approach and compare results against benchmarks and performance indicators.


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.
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology

Funding

    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:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). 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.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). 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.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). 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.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 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: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
Week beginning 9 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Jayanta Mondol


Other supervisors

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