School of Mechanical & Mining Engineering

PhD Thesis Projects

Please contact us if you would like to do your Thesis on renewable power conversion. If you have a scholarship obtained through a competitive selection process (e.g. UQ Graduate School scholarship), apply for a RECCE top-up scholarship (see below to learn how to). Funding would also be available to attend international conferences provided your research produces material worthy to be presented in a prestigious conference.

The following are the PhD topics currently on offer:

Open-cell metal foam heat exchangers

The heat transfer performance of a metal foam heat exchanger is superior to most of conventional ones at the same pressure drop. However, this can be achieved by optimizing the foam geometry and operating conditions. This project addresses fundamental questions regarding the thermofluidic properties of the metal foam, and identifying the flow regimes and governing relations through the visualization techniques. The nominated student will be trained to use advanced non-intrusive laser-based measurement techniques including Particle Image velocimetry (PIV) and laser Doppler Anemometry (LDA)

Supercritical Turbines

Implementation of Multistage Impulse Module and Experimentation of Loss Model
Over the past years, we have been developing in-house models to design single-stage impulse and single-stage reaction turbines. The aim of this thesis is to modify the existing code to accommodate multistage impulse machines.

  1. Redefining velocity triangle rules and methods to calculate meanline performance for a multistage turbine
  2. Modifying loss model so that is can be used in multistage analysis
  3. Designing and building a multistage impulse turbine
  4. Testing a multistage turbine in the HP loop and gathering data to validate loss model

Improvements to Eilmer3 (in-house CFD code) to perform 3D Turbomachinery Calculations
Eilmer3 is the UQ's own in-house CFD code. It had been first developed for scramjet nozzle design.  Since then it has been adapted to design of turbomachinery.  It is now capable for 2d design.  The purpose of this thesis is to improve Eilmer3 using C, python, LUA so that it is suitable for 3D turbomachinery calculations

  1. Validation of 3D turbulence models
  2. Improvement of the current mixing plane to accommodate viscous calculations and several blocks at the interface
  3. Validation of Eilmer3: 3D viscous simulations of radial inflow/impulse turbines
  4. Development and validation of CFD-based blade optimisation routines (includes automated blade and mesh generation)

Supercritical Heat Exchangers

More power can be generated from the same resource if the working fluid is pushed to supercritical states. However, to materialize this benefit challenges, specific to supercritical fluids, must be addressed. RECCE uses a multitude of approaches, encompassing the use of numerical, theoretical and experimental techniques, to design and test such heat exchangers working under extremely high pressure and temperature conditions.

Hybrid Cooling

Saline Water Spray Mechanisms for Inlet Precooling of Air
Air-cooled condensers operate by using the ambient air as the cooling medium. On hot days, the cooling capacity of air is reduced and this affects the power plant performance. The conventional alternative to air cooling is wet cooling towers. However, wet cooling towers consume large quantities of water and water is increasingly becoming too precious to waste by evaporation to the atmosphere. This Thesis topic is a continuation of previous RECCE projects on using water sprays and wetted media on very hot days to help power plants maintain their design point performance. The specific purpose would be to investigate whether one can use saline water in this application. While fresh water is scarce, saline water is not. If with your help we can demonstrate that saline water can be used in this application, this would have a very favourable effect on the resultant costs. The RECCE has a wind tunnel facility where air flow conditions similar to cooling towers can be experimentally simulated with or without water spraying. Besides, the RECCE is home to the world’s biggest cooling tower designed and manufactured as a research facility in Gatton. Full scale tests can be conducted there and more information can be found here.

Soiling of Solar Mirror Surfaces and Methods of Cleaning
The mirrors used in Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) Power plants need to be periodically cleaned to maintain their high reflectivity. Reduced reflectivity of a solar mirror due to soiling can lead to an 8%–12% drop in performance between cleanings. Manual scrubbing is not feasible in large industrial installations. Washing efficiency depends on many factors including water pressure and flow rate, water quality; as well as the nozzle type, nozzle orientation, the nozzle stand-off distance and the nozzle travel speed. Ambient wind conditions also affect the cleaning performance. The objective in this Thesis Project is to design optimum mirror cleaning solutions for solar mirrors. The RECCE Gatton Wind Tunnel is to be used to test different mirror cleaning solutions. The tunnel provides uniform wind speed for the test section (working section) and the provided wind speed can vary from 0.1 m/s to a maximum of up to 75m/s with the fan motor power of 75kW. The tunnel can accommodate up to 1.7x4 m2 mirror segments which can be used to test nozzle spraying arrangements with stationary or traversing nozzles at different angles to the mirror surface, at different stand-off distances, and at different pressures. The tunnel is equipped with an exit scrubber and this allows the use of different chemicals and detergents during the tests as additional cleaning agents.

This is a specific case of a more generic problem of heat exchanger fouling; a significant challenge face by both the design and maintenance engineer. For instance, the RECCE has been working on fouling of EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) gas coolers in the automobile industry.

PhD entrance requirements to The University of Queensland may be found here. Information from other scholarships can be found on that page.

To apply, please submit an Online Application and list at least one (1) of our researchers as your Supervisor in your application. Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to

Get in touch

Please contact us for more information on how you can engage with RECCE.