Nanobubble technology: a chemical-free approach to improve the resilience of drinking water infrastructure

Updated: 2 months ago
Location: Cranfield, ENGLAND

This exciting fully funded PhD, with an enhanced stipend of £19,000 per annum, will deliver strategies to strengthen/upgrade the drinking water treatment infrastructure and increase its resilience using nanobubble technology as a chemical-free approach. The successful candidate will work closely with Scottish Water to develop the technology and aim to implement the innovation on the ground.


Students will benefit from being part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience (WIRe), a world leading collaboration between three UK universities. The WIRe programme includes a bespoke training programme in technical and personal skills development, and provides opportunities for overseas travel and access to world leading experimental facilities (PhDs under this scheme are for a duration of four years full time). More details of the CDT WIRe at www.cdtwire.com

We are an inclusive and diverse doctoral centre and welcome applications from all highly motivated individuals, regardless of background, identity or disability.

Sources of water used for drinking water are suffering more and more from algal blooms as a result of increases in nutrient concentrations and higher ambient temperatures. Not only is this causing an increase in the frequency of blooms, but may also lead to a switch to more toxin-forming algal species. When water abstracted for drinking water treatment contains algal blooms, blockages can occur in filters and odours may develop in the treated water. Toxins released by certain types of algae can be harmful to health

Current methods used in drinking water to control these problems rely heavily on chemicals, such as chlorine and ozone oxidation. However, these chemical oxidants can react with natural organic matter in raw and treated water and lead to the formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs), some of which are thought to pose a risk to human health and may require additional costs for post treatment. Therefore, developing more environmentally friendly and cost-effective technology for water treatment is critical for increasing the resilience and robustness of drinking water infrastructure.

This work will harness the unique features of nanobubbles to enhance and develop treatment systems. Nanobubbles are defined as bubbles with diameters less than 1000 nm. Their existence was only proven by atomic force microscopy in the year 2000. Therefore, nanobubble technology is an exciting emerging process science.

Apart from their small size and huge surface area, nanobubbles also differ from ordinary bubbles in terms of their longevity, and their ability to generate shock waves, induced heat and reactive oxygen species. Nanobubbles can therefore be used in water treatment processes to 1) hugely increase the efficiency of existing processes (such as ozone oxidation); 2) Act as highly oxidative species which may contribute to the removal of algae, micropollutants and microbial contaminants. Nanobubble technology thus has the potential to upgrade or deliver the next generation of drinking water treatment.

The aims of this project are therefore to develop low or chemical-free approaches to treat drinking water using nanobubble technology. This project will look at the exciting application of nanobubbles to change the way we think about treating drinking water by improving mass transfer and increasing oxidative processes by changing the characteristics of bubbles.

The project is an exciting collaboration between Cranfield University and Scottish Water. Scottish Water provides water and sewerage services across Scotland. By developing our fundamental scientific understanding of nanobubble systems we will be able to increase the resilience of our water supplies. The successful candidate will work closely with Scottish Water to develop the technology and determine the best route for implementation of the process innovations.

The successful applicant will make use of the Drinking Water Pilot Plant facility at Cranfield University to translate the lab results to full-scale.


Sponsored by EPSRC and Scottish Water, this studentship will provide a bursary of £19,000 per year with fees paid*. All training and placement (overseas/industry) costs will also be covered, subject to supervisor approval.

*The studentship is open to UK and international students (including EU countries) however due to funding rules, no more than 30% of the projects in this cohort can be allocated to international students.


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