Nanocomposite Membranes for Antibiotics Removal from Water: A Multidisciplinary Approach Towards Sustainability and Scalability


The indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to their presence in water bodies, posing a significant threat to both human health and the environment. In this context, the proposition of innovative treatment methods for antibiotics removal from water emerges as a crucial and timely endeavour. Traditional water treatment processes are often inadequate in effectively removing antibiotics, allowing these potent substances to persist in our water supplies, not only contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria but also posing risks to aquatic ecosystems and, subsequently, human populations. The need for innovative treatment methods arises from the recognition that existing technologies may fall short in addressing this complex challenge, mitigating the potential adverse effects on human health and the environment. Moreover, the development and implementation of such innovative solutions align with the UN sustainable development goals (particularly Goal 6) emphasising the responsible management of natural resources [1,2].

Thin film nanocomposite (TFC) membranes have emerged as promising solution in water treatment offering high selectivity, efficiency in separating contaminants, durability, versatility for different applications, and widespread use in industries and municipal plants for producing clean water [3]. TFC membranes, commonly used in reverse osmosis and nanofiltration for water purification, consists of multiple layers. The support layer provides mechanical strength, followed by an interfacial polymerisation layer that reacts to form a thin polyamide layer. This polyamide layer is the active component, selectively allowing water molecules to pass through while blocking ions and larger substances. However, TFC membranes for antibiotics removal has made significant progress, but there are still some notable gaps that warrant further investigation, including the need for optimised selectivity, long-term stability, antibiotics specificity, effective anti-fouling strategies, and affordable scalability.

This PhD project will focus on formulating innovative TFC membranes with effective antibiotics selectivity via a comprehensive bench-scale approach, combining theoretical studies and laboratory experiments to assess membrane effectiveness, considering parameters like composition and operating conditions, to remove specific types of antibiotics from water as emerging contaminants. The main three objectives will be formulating and fabricating novel TFC membranes capable of antibiotic-free water supply, discussing removal mechanisms ensuring sustainable selectivity in competitive regime, and to elevate scalability via promising anti-fouling and stability under practical operating conditions. 

Successful candidate will also have the chance to engage with the industrial partner of the project, enriching their career opportunities and skills through hands-on, practical experience.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a master’s degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field. 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 Civil Engineering and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, a covering letter/personal statement and two academic references.

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.


Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor [], those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the School PGR Office [].


Open to UK applicants

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.



  1. Milad Esfandiaribayat, Mojtaba Binazadeh, Samad Sabbaghi, Milad Mohammadi, Samaneh Ghaedi, Hamid Rajabi. Tetracycline removal from wastewater via g-C3N4 loaded RSM-CCD-optimised hybrid photocatalytic membrane reactor. Nature Scientific Report 14, 1163 (2024).
  2. Foglia, F., Frick, B., Nania, M. et al. Multimodal confined water dynamics in reverse osmosis polyamide membranes. Nature Communications 13, 2809 (2022).