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Available Postgraduate Projects

We are seeking students to undertake exciting projects in our college!

If you've been unable to find a project that you are interested in, you can use the researchers portal  to find researchers from related fields.

  • Use one or two keywords to narrow down the list of researchers.
  • Each research profile will indicate if the researcher has the capacity to supervise.

Once you've found a suitable project, you can contact relevant researchers using the CDU directory.

Please see the CDU Research Scholarship page for further information regarding How to Apply for scholarships and key dates for application submissions.

Financial Assistance: Students will need to apply for a scholarship if they need financial support to undertake the research.

Engineering

Study of organic and perovskite solar cells for optimizing their photovoltaic performance

Contact: Emeritus Professor Jai Singh

Project: Both organic solar cells (OSCs)  and perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are produced by chemical processing at room temperature so these are very economical to fabricate. The power conversion efficiency of OSCs  is reaching 18% and  that of PSCs 25% and hence both types of cells have the potential of commercialization.  As a result much research activities worldwide are currently carried out on OSCs and PSCs. In this project first some theoretical work will be required to design and optimize the structure and then OSCs  and PSCs will be fabricated in our laboratory and tested.

Microwave photonic signal processing

Contact: Associate Professor Erwin Chan

Project: The processing of very wideband microwave signals directly in the optical domain is the next stage of the evolution of the optical fibre technology. Next generation telecommunication systems will use microwave photonics for the distribution of signals in applications such as fibre-radio mobile communication and radar phased array antennas. This is driven by novel applications that demand the use of increasingly higher frequency carriers and broadband signals, coupled with the ability of fibre-optic systems to provide high-bandwidth interconnect transmission properties that are virtually independent of length. Since in such fibre optic systems the signal is already in the optical domain, the question arises: can the processing on the signal be done directly in the optical domain? It is highly attractive to incorporate photonic signal processing into the optical fibre network, because this has the potential of overcoming the existing electronic bottlenecks for processing high bandwidth signals, and it can also provide in-built signal conditioning that can be integrated with the fibre optic system.
The aim of the research project is to solve the long-standing problem of how to realise tunable RF/microwave photonic interference mitigation filters that can simultaneously excise the RF interference from a signal carried in an optical fibre, and at the same time transmit the wanted signal with low noise and minimal impact on the information over a wide range of microwave frequencies. This opens the way to wideband adaptive processing of signals directly inside the fibre.

Use of recycled materials for road construction

Contact: Dr Ali Rajabipour

Project: Undertake research and development, innovation, and commercial development in collaboration with
the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL) into the use of recycled materials in
Northern Territory roads. The research aims to find practical solutions which will enhance local
businesses and create jobs in remote Northern Territory communities through the use of recycled materials
in road construction.

Electrospinning for Sustainable Clean Energy Applications

Contact: Dr Naveen Kumar Elumalai

Project: Photocatalytic hydrogen production via solar water splitting is one of the most promising solutions for sustainable energy and environmental remedy issues. The development of affordable and efficient photocatalysts will advance environmental sustainability. Electrospinning is one of the most accessed nanofabrication techniques during the last three decades and has paved the way for unprecedented advancements with new innovations and discoveries in several fields of application, including energy devices and biomedical and environmental applications. Solar-driven hydrogen production from water using particulate photocatalysts is considered the most economical and effective eco-friendly approach to producing hydrogen fuel. However, the efficiency of hydrogen production from water in particulate photocatalysis systems is still low. In this project, the electrospinning technique will be employed to develop a novel hybrid photocatalyst for application in solar hydrogen technologies.

Environment

Water Security in Northern Australia: Flow characteristics of Australia’s northern rivers

Contact: Dr Dylan Irvine

Project: During the wet season, water is plentiful across much of Australia’s north. This rainfall is highly variable, both in space and from year to year. This rainfall sustains a broad range of surface water bodies and it recharges the north’s many groundwater systems. Groundwater and surface water systems are highly connected, with groundwater sustaining many water-dependent ecosystems (rivers, wetlands, and springs) throughout the dry season.

There is significant interest in utilising northern Australia’s water resources to drive economic development. Compared to the southern states, there are substantial knowledge gaps in both surface water and groundwater systems and their complex interactions. This PhD project seeks to better understand north Australia’s river flow utilising time series data, and the interactions between rivers, groundwater, and their economic and environmental value.

We are seeking a highly motivated student who is interested in studying north Australia’s rivers. Skills in hydrology, hydrogeology, computer scripting (e.g. Python) and statistics, and the ability to utilise large datasets will be highly beneficial. The project may also include fieldwork, including the collection of surface water and groundwater samples, depending on the interests of the applicant, and other personnel on the project.

This project is open to Australian residents and comes with a fully funded scholarship. Darwin is the preferred location but is negotiable. Top-up scholarships may be included, depending on the experience of the applicant. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Dylan Irvine for more information.

Sustaining intensive agriculture through droughts and floods in the Lower Burdekin Delta, Queensland, Australia

Contact: Dr Dylan Irvine

Project: Seeking a PhD student with a background in hydrogeology and/or numerical modelling to contribute to a funded Australian Research Council Linkage Project.

The Linkage Project aims to develop state-of-the-art conceptual and numerical models of river-soil-groundwater interactions to address complex and persistent questions on water sustainability in the Lower Burdekin Delta, Queensland, where groundwater pumping to irrigate sugarcane has been supplemented by artificial recharge for over 50 years. This project expects to deliver new knowledge of critical hydrological/hydrogeological processes to inform the scheme operation, the largest in Australia. Anticipated benefits involve balancing the needs of agriculture and the protection of pristine environments, including groundwater discharge to the Great Barrier Reef.

Multiple possible research directions are possible, including combinations of fieldwork, and/ or computer modelling. Potential students who are interested in any of the following are encouraged to enquire further: (1) using isotopes, groundwater chemistry and groundwater level data to estimate groundwater recharge; (2) using groundwater modelling to investigate the impact of aquifer heterogeneity on groundwater-surface water interactions, solute transport or seawater intrusion; or (3) quantifying/understanding surface water-groundwater interactions using a variety of methods.

The project includes operating funding but requires student to apply for and obtain a scholarship. Interested applicants should contact Dr Dylan Irvine for more information.

Use of groundwater isotopes to improve understanding of the hydrogeology of the Western Davenport region, Northern Territory

Contact: Dr Dylan Irvine

Project:

The project, based in Darwin, aims to improve the understanding of the conceptualisation of the hydrology and hydrogeology of the Western Davenport region, located south of Tennant Creek in the arid zone of the Northern Territory. The project is to be conducted in conjunction with the Northern Territory Government and Flinders University.

There is significant interest in utilising northern Australia’s water resources to drive economic development. Compared to the southern states, there are substantial knowledge gaps in both surface water and groundwater systems and their complex interactions.

We are seeking a highly motivated student with an interest in the use of groundwater isotopes to work with a multidisciplinary team to better understand the water resources of the Western Davenport region. The project will focus on quantifying groundwater recharge (rates and processes) and to determine groundwater ages and flow paths in an arid environment. The project will likely include the use of cutting-edge analyses of krypton-81 to search for very old groundwater (>300ka) as well as the extensive use of other tracers including carbon-14 and tritium. The project will be paired with a remote sensing focussed project that aims to understand evapotranspiration in the area.

This project comes with a fully funded scholarship and is open to both Australian and international applicants. An additional top-up scholarship may be available, depending on the experience of the applicant. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Dylan Irvine for more information.

Application of remote sensing to study groundwater dependent ecosystems and evapotranspiration in the Western Davenport region, Northern Territory

Contact: Dr Dylan Irvine

Project: The project, based in Darwin, aims to improve the understanding of the conceptualisation of the hydrology and hydrogeology of the Western Davenport, located south of Tennant Creek in the arid zone of the Northern Territory. The project is to be conducted in conjunction with the Northern Territory Government and Flinders University.

We are seeking a highly motivated student with expertise in the use of remote sensing techniques to work with a multidisciplinary team to better understand the water resources of the Western Davenport region. In particular, the project will focus on quantifying the extent and timing of water inundation and to determine evapotranspiration rates relating to Taylor creek, a groundwater-dependent ecosystem in the area. Other potential areas of research include the potential to utilise GRACE satellite data and to utilise data from nearby Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network sites. The project can include both desktop (e.g. use of satellite imagery) and field-based analyses (e.g. measurements of sapflow and/or drone-based surveys). The project will be paired with a groundwater focussed project that will utilise isotopes to improve understanding of groundwater flow processes, including groundwater recharge and the groundwater-dependent ecosystems at the study site.

This project comes with a fully funded scholarship and is open to both Australian and international applicants. An additional top-up scholarship may be available, depending on the experience of the applicant. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Dylan Irvine for more information.

Detection of invasive Siam weed using drone remote sensing and machine learning

Contact: Dr Deepak Gautam

Project: This project aims to develop new tools to detect invasive plant species using drone-based remote sensing and machine learning models.  

We seek a highly motivated student with expertise in remote sensing and programming to work with a multidisciplinary team of weed scientists, remote sensing scientists, and ecologists. In particular, the student will focus on detecting Siam weed using drone-based images acquired during the flowering phenology of the plant. The student will investigate state-of-the-art object detection algorithms to enable detection in natural systems. The project will include mostly desktop-based (e.g. processing of images and building models) and some field-based analysis (e.g. field survey of the weed). The student will have the opportunity to work closely with the industry to build their skills in the contemporary use of drone and remote sensing technologies.

The project is open to both Australian and international applicants. A top-up scholarship can be available for a successful candidate, depending on the candidate's experience.

Information Technology

Temporal Malware Authorship Analysis for Measuring Shifts in Attacker Advancement

Contact: Associate Professor Mamoun Alazab

Project: Malware authors are equipped with both technical skills and tools to cover their tracks and origin. The ability to forensically analyse malware code is becoming an increasingly important discipline in the field of cyber forensics. Malware code profiling/attribution is relatively new as a method for crime analysis. Studies in authorship attribution has been applied in many areas of research, but there is little research on authorship attribution to malware code.  In this project, we will look at how authorship changes within attack/defence environments, in malware, whereby an attacker alters their attack to overcome a new defence and, consequentially, defenders update their defences against new forms of attack. We begin with unsupervised authorship analysis techniques to form a notion of which groups are behind attacks, and examine these for “attack alteration events”, in which a significant portion of attacks alter in a short period of time. We use this information to update the clusters and map the flow of information between groups by examining when these alterations proliferate to other groups.

Artificial intelligence for the new class of Earth observation

Contact: Dr Sina Vafi

Project: A cohesive Earth observation capability is formed by utilizing advanced video processing techniques, which are basically merged to the extraction of objects. Building footprint extraction, storm object extraction and crop field extraction are examples that are used in urban planning, weather forecast and agricultural monitoring, respectively.
Object detection from satellite videos is a challenging task. This is because of the extreme variability of material, shape, spatial, and spectral patterns that may come with different environmental conditions and construction practices.
The project explores an end-to-end approach based on a deep-learning model for the automatic detection and extraction of objects from Earth observation based videos. Moreover, to accurately monitor and analyze the environmental activities, it is important to apply a reliable forward error correcting (FEC) code, which protects real-time videos transmitted through the noisy environment of the network.
For this purpose, a new scheme of short-length FEC code is proposed, whose performance is optimized without any expert knowledge about constituents of the satellite network. The key activities of the project are

• Identify the main requirements for efficient data transmission through low-power satellite networks and their applications in Earth observation.
• Usage of three dimensional (3D) Versatile Video Coding (VVC) bitstream applicable for the wide range of services defined in Earth observation.

Hence, the aims of the project are to:

• Implement a reliable Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm for extraction of objects from the videos compressed by VVC standard.
• Construct efficient AI-based FEC codes suitable for real-time videos.

Advanced Manufacturing Alliance

Solid state processing of alloys produced by cold spray additive manufacturing

Contact: Professor Krishnan Kannoorpatti

Project: Cold spray additive manufacturing method is capable of spraying bended powders of different metals. With this method it is possible to produce alloys that cannot be easily produced by conventional manufacturing. The research problem would be to produce suitable alloys by using phase diagrams and thermodynamic computational software. For example, to produce a 316 stainless steel, is it possible to blend Fe, Cr, Ni and Mo in the right amounts to produce the required composition for 316 stainless steel. It may be possible to tailor alloys for applications and produce and test them for the required properties. The project will be carried out on LightSPEE3D machine cold spray additive manufacturing machine. You will also be given access to industry experts in this technology. The project requires you to have good background and interest in physical metallurgy, metallographic practice, thermodynamics of alloy formation, and analytical techniques applied to metals. Three-month internship at an industry partner would be available.

Wear resistant alloys by rapid additive manufacturing

Contact: Professor Krishnan Kannoorpatti

Project: Wear resistant alloys used in the mining and mineral processing industry are based on carbides mainly but also include nitrides and tungsten. These are produced by casting or weld hardfacing. The alloys produced will have microstructures that are dictated by the thermodynamics of alloy formation. Changing the composition, type and the number of microstructural constituents is extremely hard with conventional manufacturing. With cold spray additive manufacturing, it is possible to spray carbides and nitrides together along with tungsten. The matrix composition can also be similarly adapted to the required application of the alloys - matrix being either austenite or martensitic. The project will be carried out on LightSPEE3D cold spray additive manufacturing machine. You will also be given access to industry experts in this technology. The project requires you to have good background and interest in physical metallurgy, heat treatment, metallographic practice, testing, thermodynamics of alloy formation and electrochemistry, and analytical techniques applied to metals. Three-month internship at an industry partner would be available.

Porosity control in cold spray additive manufacturing

Contact: Professor Krishnan Kannoorpatti

Project: During additive manufacturing of parts, more so with cold spray technology, the parts usually contain porosities. The porosities can affect the properties of the parts. The porosities can be reduced by designing suitable heat treatment procedures. The porosities can also be beneficial as in the case of body implants. The porosities allow the growth of tissues through them and help the implant become part of the body. If the right material is chosen, the implant would slowly dissolve in the body without being toxic. Controlling the size, amount, length, and configuration porosities is essential for some applications.  The project will be carried out on LightSPEE3D cold spray additive manufacturing machine. You will also be given access to industry experts in this technology. The project requires you to have good background and interest in materials engineering, analytical techniques applied to metals. and use of finite element method for calculating load bearing abilities of parts. Three-month internship at an industry partner would be available.

Energy and Resources Institute

Functionalised nanoparticles for fire suppression in arid and tropical climates

Contact: Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

Summary: The application of the high-performance aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), which contain PFAS surfactants, has caused one of the most significant environmental catastrophes of the 21st century.  Replacement formulations have been developed, known as fluorine-free firefighting foams (FfreeF), but they do not provide the same level of protection at airports, defence and industrial facilities as AFFF and appear unsuitable for arid and tropical climates, such as those experienced across most of the Australian landmass.  From this perspective, this project deals with inventing new technologies for improving the properties of fluorine-free firefighting foams, using functionalised nanoparticles, to match the performance of FfreeF with those of the defence-grade formulations of AFFF and to make FfreeF suitable for use in tropical and arid climatic zones in Australia and around the globe.  The research will unify several experimental and theoretical approaches, at the intersection of industrial and surface chemistry, chemical engineering and materials engineering.  The project aims (i) to functionalise nanoparticle to allow them to operate as barriers that slow down the diffusion of fuels through foams; and (ii) to incorporate these nanoparticles into formulations of the foam concentrates that improve the stability of FfreeF when subjected to additional heat transfer to foams in hot climates.  The project will suit a candidate with an Honours I degree in chemistry, or an equivalent four-year Bachelor Honours degree in chemical or materials engineering.

Can you invent sustainable technologies to produce lithium chemicals?

Contact: Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski

Summary: The success of the international efforts to decarbonise the world’s economy relies on efficient generation and storage of renewable energy, the latter frequently involving the lithium-ion batteries.  But despite the green and renewable image of the metal, production of lithium chemicals is anything but green or renewable.  The conventional refining of concentrated lithium ores, with mineral spodumene as its key component, to lithium chemicals, comprises heating at 1100 °C, digestion with concentrated sulfuric acid at 250 °C, and several ensuing purification stages that make lithium refining to be energy, feedstock, and by-product intensive.  In this project, you will attempt to change this situation, by inventing sustainable technologies for processing of lithium minerals, especially spodumene, to lithium chemicals and recyclable by-products.  To spur your discoveries, you will bring together several experimental and theoretical approaches, at the intersection of computational chemistry, chemical engineering, and metallurgy.  You will compute, at an atomic level, the effect of impurities and additives, such as iron, on melting and phase inversion of spodumene, using molecular-dynamics and density-functional-theory approaches.  Your measurements, guided by the results from atomistic modelling, will involve several hyphenated techniques to be performed either at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, or at Australian synchrotron and neutron scattering facilities in Melbourne and Sydney.  Your work will bear great impact on how, in future, the industry refines spodumene to lithium chemicals, you will publish your findings in the best international journals, and you will apply for patents for your inventions.

Functionalised porous carbon materials for the removal of PFAS from drinking water

Contact: Dr Luis Herrera Diaz

Summary: PFAS are fluorochains materials discovered in the 1970s.  They were the perfect oil and water repellents, temperature resistant, and friction reduction agents.  They were used in everything from coating textiles to firefighting products.  In 1970, the magic of PFAS finished because of their impact on human health and the environment.  The damage was done, and PFAS were everywhere, including drinking water, with millions of people showing side effects.  The only two solutions to this problem are to stop using PFAS and remove them from drinking water.

Nanoporous carbons materials are at the forefront of adsorption-based technologies because of their properties such as large surface areas, pore volume, adjustable surface chemistry, stability, non-toxicity, non-corrosivity, and low cost.  These properties are attractive for removing PFAS from water, Previous works showed that activated carbons such as F400, Carbsorb, and CMR400 are effective.  However, its effectiveness depends on the properties of the carbon and water characteristics.  Despite the efforts, some challenges are to be addressed, such as removal of short-chain PFAS, identification of carbon properties to enhance adsorption and reduction of the effect of other pollutants.

These challenges have taken researchers to use molecular simulation to understand the interaction of PFAS with carbon materials.  This approach is promising because simulated results at micro and meso scales agree with experimental data.  In this project, you will use molecular simulation and experimental techniques to design porous carbons by decorating their surfaces with functional groups and gain insights into the kinetics and thermodynamics of the adsorption of fluorochains.

Integration of Green Hydrogen for Energy Storage and Dispatch in Small/Medium Scale Grid Systems

Contact: Professor Suresh Thennadil

Project: There has been a continuous increase in the amount of renewable energy fed into electricity grids. Climate change concerns has resulted in governments around the world committing to replacing fossil-fuels with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.  However, the intermittency and unpredictability of renewable energy sources pose challenges to the stability and reliability of electricity supply when the renewable energy contribution to the energy mix is high.  To address these challenges, efficient energy storage solutions which can supply electricity on demand at short (seconds-minutes) and long (hours – days) time scales are required. Green hydrogen produced from solar or wind resources has the potential to serve as a long-term renewable energy storage source.
The aim of this research is to develop control and optimisation of islanded and grid-connected renewable energy systems with green hydrogen for energy storage and dispatch according to demand. The research will comprise of detailed mathematical modelling of different scenarios and options and testing them in CDU’s state-of-the-art Grid Systems Testing facility. Model-based control and optimisation schemes using digital twins will be developed and evaluated through case studies.

Hydrogen from waste biomass

Contact: Professor Suresh Thennadil

Project: Agricultural practices result in large quantities of biomass waste which could be utilised for producing hydrogen. Since biomass is considered a renewable source, the hydrogen produced is considered to be green and sustainable. The utilisation of waste biomass can reduce waste management and disposal issues while at the same time providing a virtually free feedstock for hydrogen production. Hydrogen can be produced from biomass through gasification, pyrolysis or anerobic digestion. Each of these approaches has challenges that need to be addressed to develop a commercially viable process. Catalytic pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion are the two areas we are interested in exploring as part of our research into hydrogen production. PhD students interested in working in either of these areas are welcome.

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods

Linking terrestrial–aquatic carbon fluxes across Australia

Contact: Dr Clément Duvert

Project: We are seeking applicants for two exciting PhD projects linked to a program funded by the Australian Research Council to develop the first nationwide assessment of carbon export via streams and rivers. Direct measurements from ecosystem observatories located across the country will be combined with remote sensing and advanced statistical modelling to extrapolate findings to the continental scale. Both positions will ideally be based in Darwin.

PhD 1 – hydrology / biogeochemistry
This PhD student will contribute to the deployment of field instruments, stream sampling and liaison with collaborators in Queensland and Tasmania. They will analyse high-resolution time-series data (flow, dissolved gases, organic carbon) and derive estimates of aquatic carbon export at each site. They will also be tasked to integrate geochemical and isotopic data into mass balance and mixing models.

PhD 2 – carbon cycle science / statistical modelling
This PhD student will develop approaches to upscaling point measurements of aquatic carbon flux to the continent using remote sensing and modelling. One key task will be to develop an updated carbon balance for Australia based on the most up-to-date estimates of terrestrial carbon productivity and new aquatic carbon data obtained through the project.

Applicants are required to have a MSc or a BSc with 1st class honours in a relevant science discipline such as hydrology, biogeochemistry, environmental science or GIS. They are expected to have experience with programming tools (or a strong willingness to learn) and a keen interest for carbon cycle science.

 

Marine bacteria responses to temperature and algal blooms

Contact: Professor Karen Gibb

Project: Naturally occurring marine bacteria and their response to severe weather events and increasing temperature  is of increasing important for animal and human health. The aim of this project is to understand bacterial interactions in lab and field trials with a focus on temperature, algal blooms, salinity and sediment particles. This work will have real world implications in understanding the impact of severe weather events and algal blooms on oyster quality in the developing Tropical Rock Oyster industry.