The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering seeks to recruit a talented researcher to a 24-month Research Associate position. The new Associate is required to demonstrate research experience in either Soil Mechanics, Soil Science or Plant Science. Within this project the Research Associate will work on a bioinspired system that uses emerging materials and concepts in geotechnical engineering to mimic the wicking mechanisms that plants use for transpiration. This position is funded by the EPSRC New Investigator Awards project: An ‘energy free’ pump: nanoporous gels to passively lift subsurface water” led by Dr Matteo Pedrotti.
The aim of the project is to develop a bioinspired pump capable of passively lifting subsurface water, from depths of tens-to hundreds of meters, using only energy that is provided naturally by the atmosphere. Through the design of a colloidal silica-based hydrogel that can be injected into soils and rocks, a soil-hydrogel network will be created that has an increased soil hydraulic conductivity and water retention capacity during periods of high negative soil water pressure, thus enabling the passive lifting of water from the deep groundwater table to near-surface soils during periods of drought. Providing a zero-energy engineering solution at the nexus between water, energy and food.
The project will tackle three specific challenges: to manipulate the hydrogel properties so that a sufficient water flux is provided over a desired range of negative pore water pressure values, whilst still maintaining injectability (a low initial viscosity and controllable gel time); to create a continuous, durable network of nanopores within the grouted soil that is resistant to repeated cycles of wetting and drying, i.e. the system must not irreversibly cavitate (form cracks or bubbles) at high negative water pressure, or the long-term hydraulic continuity will be lost; to demonstrate that plants can thrive when connected to an “Energyfree water pump”.
More information on this pdf file.