Research Supervisor Connect

Functional structured polymer coatings for water condensation


Development and optimisation of micro-patterned surfaces that can collect water by condensation from humid air.


Professor Chiara Neto.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



Maintaining a stable supply of drinking water in Australia is a continual challenge. In 2006 the Australian mainland was gripped by “the worst drought in 1000 years”, with the once-ferocious Murray River receiving only 5% of its average inflow. Existing technical solutions to water shortages include the building of dam infrastructures, desalination plants, and waste-water recycling plants, methods which are energy intensive, result in water wastage through evaporation, or are potentially environmentally damaging.

Harvesting water directly from the atmosphere is an increasingly popular alternative, which could provide an energy-effective and localised method of water capture, especially useful in remote communities where the local humidity is high.

In this PhD project, we aim to optimise the potential for water collection of micro-patterned surfaces obtained by dewetting of bilayers of thin polymer films.1, 2 We will investigate the physico-chemical principles which underpin water condensation and collection, and ultimately design new water capture devices that can help us provide sustainable sources of water.

1. Thickett, S. C.; Harris, A.; Neto, C., Langmuir 2010, 26, (20), 15989-15999. DOI: 10.1021/la103078k
2. Thickett, S. C.; Neto, C.; Harris, A. T., Adv. Mat. 2011, 23, (32), 3718-3722. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201100290

Additional information

The project primarily involves performing experiments suing a wide range of surface modification techniques, and surface characterisation techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), contact angle goniometry, ellipsometry, and grazing angle FTIR. The modification of solid surfaces using advanced surface coatings will be performed both in the lab and through external collaborations. Interested students should source their own scholarship, as detailed on the University’s website. 

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1563

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