Development of natural mineral based novel materials for water harvesting from the air

Study level


Master of Philosophy

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Ian Mackinnon
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Associate Professor Yunfei Xi
Advance Queensland Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Development of novel materials for agricultural use with the aim to increase water availability from soil for plants in arid area has been one of the most important research topics. However, available products are very limited and more importantly, they are very expensive and not environmental friendly, which make them not practical for real use.

In addition, most of these materials adsorb moisture at very high relative humidity (RH), consequently, we need a viable solution to the capture of water from air at lower RH. Ideally, a good soil additive for water-harvesting system can concentrate and release moisture in soil in a controllable way at mild conditions.

The main objective of the research will be the development of low-cost, environmental benign composite materials based on abundant natural minerals from Australia with a view to capturing moisture from air and to enhance water availability for plants by improving water retention properties in soil.

Research activities

Under the instruction from two accomplished scientists, the student will carry out the following research activities:

  • Perform literature research to investigate previous relevant study in this area and find the research gaps.
  • Design and conduct experiments at QUT to perform material synthesis and characterisation.
  • Collect data to determine additional experiments required and to reveal material structure-property relationships and to assess water harvesting properties.
  • Develop and perform pilot trials to demonstrate that novel materials have improved product properties at a scalable production level.


Depending on the level of study, the objectives are to research and develop:

  • Connections between raw natural minerals and new innovative products. (Masters, PhD)
  • A fundamental understanding – at a microstructural level – of R&D of water harvesting materials. (Masters, PhD)
  • Theoretic construction on the relevant reaction and fabrication mechanisms under the framework of mineralogy, crystallography and materials science. (PhD)

Skills and experience

As a successful applicant you may have background in some of the below areas (no need to be in every area):

  • Materials science
  • Mineralogy
  • Clay minerals
  • Soil
  • Agriculture


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.