Chalmers: PhD student position in Colloidal organic pollutants in road runoff: sources, emissions and innovative treatment technologies

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Information about the employer
At the division Water Environment Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, our research aims at identifying and developing sustainable solutions to issues concerning water, materials and resources. Together with stakeholders from the urban community, we solve engineering-science problems and acquire the knowledge needed to contribute to a sustainable development of urban areas. As a PhD student you will be a part of a group of scientists working on treatment of stormwater and leachate, which is also a part of the FRIST competence center (Forum for Risk Investigation and Sustainable Technology). FRIST’s vision is to be a leading center of excellence for sustainable management of contaminated materials and sites, and we perform creative research in collaboration with various stakeholders for effective implementation of new knowledge. We also collaborate with researchers at the Technical University of Denmark as a part of the Nordic Five Tech.

More information about the division can be found here:

Project description
During rain and snowmelt, stormwater from urban surfaces accumulates pollutants emitted from human activities such as transportation, construction and trade. The highest stormwater concentrations of pollutants such as particles, metals and organic pollutants are generally found in areas with high traffic volumes. Organic pollutants are diffusely emitted from numerous sources in our society, e.g. through combustion of fuels and waste, leaching from construction materials, vehicle exhaust and wear, abrasion of asphalt and tires, plastic surfaces and many other products used in our everyday lives. Organic compounds are often persistent and may bioaccumulate in living organisms, can be acutely toxic and may also interfere with hormonal systems in organisms. Polluted stormwater has been identified as one of the greatest threats to aquatic ecosystems, and stormwater treatment is seen as a prerequisite to achieve water quality goals set by Sweden and the EU.

Previous research has shown that a large proportion of the organic contaminants are bound to colloids. The distribution of pollutants between the particulate, colloidal and dissolved phases is crucial for the fate of organic pollutants in water, and stormwater treatment methods must be developed accordingly. Existing treatment technologies are often designed to separate particles, such as disc filters with large mesh size and stormwater ponds for settling pollutants bound to particles. The disadvantage is that these methods cannot remove colloid-bound pollutants, which are then discharged into natural waterways. Innovative technologies that can treat colloidal contaminants are currently lacking and existing techniques are in need of further development.

The aim of this PhD project is to propose and evaluate the best practices to prevent diffuse emissions of organic pollutants from traffic and the best technologies to remove colloid-bound organic pollutants from road runoff. The results will serve as a base for proposing and developing preventive measures to reduce the diffuse spreading of organic pollutants with stormwater. This research will support the EU and Sweden in their efforts to achieve set environmental objectives for water quality. The knowledge will also be relevant to stakeholders responsible for improving the quality of stormwater, such as landowners, municipalities, environmental and transportation departments.

Find more information and apply here!