Modelling the dewatering of sugarcane biomass

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Floren Plaza
Senior Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


The extraction of juice from sugar cane straw results in a final product (bagasse) moisture close to 48%.  In Australia approximately 9 million tonnes are produced each year.  There are many uses for bagasse, however  in Australia it is mainly burnt in boilers to provide steam and electricity in sugar factories, as well as exporting to the electricity grid.  Because sugar cane absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, bagassse is a green house gas neutral fuel.

A reduction of moisture from ~48% to 44% would provide a large quantity of additional  fuel energy,

The extraction of moisture in the milling process involves a complicated set of large horizontal rollers with grooves and  rough surfaces, and large forces and deformations imposed on the bagasse.  The process is poorly understood and previous attempts to model the process have made some progress but more is required in order to simulate and improve the process.

Research activities

The aim of this project is to apply existing experimental data, and powerful modelling software and hardware that QUT already has available through the High Performance Computer (HPC) section, in order to progress the simulation of the process.  In more detail, the modelling of the process will involve detailed simulation in three dimensions, contact and sliding of the bagasse against metal surfaces, the application of critical state models to model the mechanical (compression, shear, and volume change) behaviour, and the application of flow through porous media, in particular using Darcy's law.  All the aspects of the simulations are expected to be carried out simultaneously.


A simulation capability that reproduces the experimental behaviour.  Predictions of possible changes in geometry or operation that will result in improved dewatering performance.  The actual progress will depend on the level of application (Honours, to PhD).

Skills and experience

A candidate could be from civil or mechanical engineering, physics, or applied mathematics.  An aptitude and/or interest in understanding and modelling physical processes is desirable.


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

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.