View the range of scholarships available to students in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences.

Master Thesis or Postgraduate student research project

Topic: Reinjection of Supernatant Brine Following Calcium Silicate Particulate Recovery into Geothermal Reservoirs

ilica scaling is one of the major unresolved problems in geothermal energy utilisation and electricity generation (silica scale in a brine drain depicted). The subsurface hot geothermal water (typically 200-300oC) is saturated with dissolved silica at these temperatures. Following the flashing process to generate steam from this superheated geothermal brine to supply the turbines and generate electricity generation, the resulting cooled separated geothermal brine which represents some 70% of the original mass flow, is now supersaturated in dissolved silica which progressively polymerises and precipitates from the brine to form a hard intractable amorphous silica scale, which blocks drains, pipes, heat exchangers and other process equipment. Currently, we are developing and demonstrating a proprietary new technology to prevent silica scaling by capturing the problematic dissolved silica as a nano-structured calcium silicate hydrate (CaSil) material which forms discrete particles that do not adhere to the metal surfaces. This material is then separated continuously from the brine and can be used as in various industrial applications. The resulting supernatant silica-free brine with minimal unrecovered CaSil particles is reinjected. We are developing and operating a continuous pilot scale process to demonstrate the technology to the geothermal industry world-wide in a realistic environment.

As part of the project further investigation of the reinjection of the supernatant brine, and any residual small CaSil particles and other dissolved entities in the brine, into porous geothermal reservoirs is required. This forms the topic of the research project offered here. It will involve a collective experimental and theoretical modelling approach as detailed below.

The research project will therefore involve:

  • A literature review of the permeability of porous and fractured media, typical of a geothermal reservoir.
  • A consideration and further development of our existing laboratory scale and ensuing pilot scale experimental model reinjection column set-ups.
  • The further design, development and operation of this laboratory scale reinjection column to enhance our understanding of how the supernatant brine which may contain some CaSil particulates behaves with different reservoir characteristics and the dependency on various design and operational parameters.
  • An investigation of the reinjectability of CaSil particles into different porous media and modelling the translation of this to a geothermal reservoir.
  • Implementing the above findings at our pilot plant and test, optimise and model the reinjectability of CaSil particles produced by the pilot plant accordingly.
  • Writing and presenting your Thesis or Project Report.

Your ideal profile:

  • A fundamental mechanical or chemical engineering knowledge at a level commensurate with that required for entry into a Victoria University of Wellington Master’s degree by thesis.
  • Basic knowledge of chemistry.
  • Preferably a knowledge of process engineering, especially porous media filter systems.
  • The ability to further design, build and modify an experimental laboratory and pilot scale equipment.
  • The ability to work and communicate in an interdisciplinary team.

The duration of project is one year for a Victoria University of Wellington Master’s thesis research programme or that period (at least 6 months) required by another university under a suitable arrangement. A Postgraduate Research Assistant project will be for 24 weeks.

The research will be carried out in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, under the supervision of Professor Jim Johnston and Dr Thomas Borrmann, and definitive guidance from Michael Schweig (PhD student), with periods of time being spent at our pilot plant operation, currently in the Taupo area. The project should be started as soon as possible. The project language is English. Financial support in accordance with the Victoria University of Wellington guidelines is available.

Suitably qualified and interested persons are invited to apply in writing, detailing their interest in the project, relevant chemistry and engineering knowledge, skills and research experience, a preferred start time, together with their Curriculum Vitae and Academic Transcript, to Professor Jim Johnston at

Applications will be considered on receipt and the process will continue until a suitable applicant is accepted for either the Master Thesis or Postgraduate Student Research Project.

PhD positions available

Immunoglycomics Group: 'Mining Mincle: How Mincle ligands can lead to more effective vaccines.'

A PhD position is available at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, within the Immunoglycomics group of Assoc. Prof.s Bridget Stocker and Mattie Timmer. This position is for three years and is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, as a Marsden fund.

We are looking for a hardworking and motivated student with either an Honours or Masters level degree in Chemistry to undertake a PhD on the synthesis and biological evaluation of vaccine adjuvants. The project will involve organic synthesis (carbohydrate chemistry) and may also include the provision for the candidate to perform their own biological experiments, pending the experience and/or skill set of the successful applicant and their research interests.

All applications must include a cover letter, a copy of the applicant's Academic Transcript and summary of the laboratory research undertaken by the candidate (noting any relevant publications).

The start date for the PhD is flexible, though we would anticipate that the candidate commences their study by the start of the New Year (2018).

For further information, and to apply, please contact Assoc. Prof. Bridget Stocker at

Ultrafast spectroscopy of rapid exciton diffusion in fused ring electron acceptors

The development of organic photovoltaics has long been guided by the idea that excitons – bound electron-hole pairs created by light absorption – can only diffuse over 5-10 nm. Undoubtedly true for thousands of materials, this idea led to the bulk heterojunction morphology to balance light absorption with exciton harvesting. We recently discovered remarkably rapid exciton diffusion in a new class of record-breaking organic semiconductors called fused-ring electron acceptors [1]. By applying unique ultrafast optical spectroscopy measurements to a series of these materials, we will learn how exciton diffusion coefficients relate to molecular structure and spectroscopic properties. Informed by exciton dynamics measurements and crystal structures of these materials, we will build numerical models to predict exciton diffusion lengths from simple input parameters, and thereby accelerate the discovery of materials whose exciton diffusion lengths approach their light absorption lengths.

We are seeking a highly motivated person with an excellent academic record and a good understanding of physical chemistry or experimental physics. Experience in optics and spectroscopy research is considered favourably. Applicants should have a chemistry or physics degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc or postgraduate Diploma. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate at Victoria University of Wellington [2].

The scholarship provides a generous non-taxed stipend of NZ$27,500 per annum plus the PhD tuition fee for three years.

To apply, please send a CV, academic record, and the names and contact details of two referees to: with “PhD exciton” in the subject line.


[1] Chandrabose et al, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 6922-6929.


PhD Scholarship in Physics

Carbon nanotube network field effect transistors as a sensing platform

AMF image of a carbon nanotube

Applications are invited for a PhD position in the group of Dr Natalie Plank at the School of Chemical and Physical Science, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand in collaboration with Dr Colleen Marlow at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA.

The project will focus on the synthesis, fabriction and electrical characterisation of carbon nanotube field effect transistor devices with controlled morphology. The candidate
will be expected to travel regularly to Cal Poly SLO to conduct detailed transport measurements on the carbon nanotube networks. A particular emphasis will be on employing these devices integrated with DNA aptamer recognition elements for electronic biosensors. Previous experience in nanofabrication techniques, scanning electron microscopy, transistor characterisation and atomic force microscopy is highly desirable. The successful candidate will work in collaboration with 2 other PhD students on the larger project, and will be working within the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

Applicants should be ambitious and demonstrate a high level of initiative. Applicants should ideally have a First-Class Honours Physics or Electrical Engineering degree (or an equivalent 4-year degree qualification) and satisfy the Victoria University ( requirements for PhD study. Non-native English candidates must have an appropriate English qualification (TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge).

The scholarship provides a non-taxed living allowance of NZ$27,000 per annum, which is a very comfortable living salary in Wellington, plus the PhD tuition fee for three years. The commencement date can be from now until 1 January 2018.

To apply email a copy of your CV to Dr Natalie Plank with “Marsden CNT FETs 2018” in the subject line. Your cover email should indicate what specific experience or interests you have relevant to this position.

Dr. Natalie Plank
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Victoria University of Wellington
New Zealand