Antifouling membranes for sustainable water purification and desalination


The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Maritime Energy solutions (N0MES) has a 4-year funded PhD place available for an exceptional researcher. With the support of the University of Liverpool (UoL), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and 33 maritime energy sector partners, N0MES PGRs will pursue new, engineering-centred, interdisciplinary research to address four vital net zero challenges currently facing the North West, the UK and beyond:

a) Energy generation using maritime-based renewable energy (e.g. offshore wind, tidal, wave, floating solar, hydrogen, CCS);

b) Distributing energy from offshore to onshore, including port- and hinterland-side impacts and opportunities;

c) Addressing the short- and long-term environmental impacts of offshore and maritime

environment renewable energy generation, distribution and storage; and

d) Decommissioning and lifetime extension of existing energy and facilities.


Access to clean water is vital for millions of people, yet many lack it due to factors like global warming, industrialization, and freshwater contamination. Existing water sources, including surface water (rivers and dams), recycled wastewater, and some underground sources, are also diminishing. Oceans, comprising 97% of available water, offer a more reliable source which are unaffected by changing rainfall patterns. Although energy requirements for seawater desalination and purification are high, marine renewable energy resources have made these more feasible especially as many low and middle income countries have these in abundance. Membrane technology is a key player for sustainable production of clean water and energy resources. Electrospinning is a highly versatile technique that can manufacture nanofibrous membrane with tuneable porosity, chemical and mechanical stability. These membranes are however susceptible to biofouling which occurs when unwanted filtered particles and organisms are deposited onto the surfaces. This causes decreased permeability, which lowers performance (flux), increases energy inefficiency and operational costs, and risks pathogen dispersal. Moreover, although there is significant research invested in the development of antifouling membranes, most studies do not take into account the challenging conditions associated with a marine environment such as high salt concentrations, marine micro and micro-organism fouling and possible heavy metal or organic contamination. The aim of this studentship will be to investigate the design and fabrication of salt-tolerant antifouling electrospun membranes for marine seawater purification/desalination. This will be achieved by the following objectives:

1. Design and fabrication of a family of antifouling electrospun nanofibrous membranes

2. Characterisation of nanofibrous membranes in terms of chemistry, morphology and porosity.

3. Evaluation of water flux and stability of the electrospun membranes

4. Evaluation of antifouling capabilities of marine bacteria and algae

5. Evaluation of antifouling capabilities in “real life” settings.


We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result.

We believe everyone deserves an excellent education and encourage students from all backgrounds and personal circumstances to apply.


Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master’s Degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field of Engineering. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.


Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Materials Engineering and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, two academic references and a supporting statement [maximum 300 words] detailing; what inspires you within this project, how your skill set matches the project, up to 3 examples showing your commitment so science, piece of science that excites you & anything else to support your application.


Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor [], those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the CDT Manager Matt Fulton [].


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.

EPSRC Studentships are available to any prospective student wishing to apply including international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise of international students and they will not be charged the fee difference between UK and international rate.