Latest Opportunities

Postdoctoral research position

– Process monitoring for mineral processing applications

Job description
In the Extractive Metallurgy research group of the Department of Process Engineering at Stellenbosch University, a specific research focus is process monitoring, process control and economic optimization. Statistical and machine learning techniques are explored in the context of dynamic simulation and real-world case studies to investigate promising approaches for more cost effective and sustainable operation of mineral processing circuits.
The main role of the postdoc will be to carry out research in statistical and machine learning techniques for process monitoring and economic optimization as applied to mineral processing case studies.
• Generation and validation of research code
• Publication and presentation of research
• Assist with supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate students
• Contribute towards funding applications

Baseline remuneration of R 220 000 per annum, with optional performance bonuses. The duration of the research position is 24 months, subject to sufficient performance evaluated at regular intervals.

Desired skills and qualifications
• A PhD obtained in not more than five years in the field of mineral processing / extractive metallurgy / chemical engineering, with publication track record in international scientific journals in the relevant field.
• Strong programming skills (preferably in MATLAB).
• Strong technical and analytical skills.
• Working knowledge of basic statistical concepts.
• Working knowledge of dynamic modelling and simulation for systems of ordinary differential equations and process control.
• Strong technical writing skills.

Deadline for applications
13 December 2016

Dr Lidia Auret

Postdoc Position – Mineral Process Engineering

Posted on 24 Oct 2016
Stellenbosch University · Department of Process Engineering
South Africa, Stellenbosch

Summary of job description
The main role of the Postdoc will be to carry out research in the area of numerical modelling of multi-phase flows. The purpose is to formulate and develop CFD models that incorporate a number of different complexities that arise in chemical engineering and mineral processing problems such as complex geometry, turbulence, heat and mass transfer and phase change, particulate phases, and viscoelasticity. Furthermore, sufficient expertise to develop open source CFD codes such as Open FOAM, LIGGGHTS and LAMMPS in process engineering applications is crucial.

Remuneration: R180 000 per annum. The duration of the fellowships is 12 months, renewable subject to availability of funds.

The deadline for applications is 14 Nov 2016.

You may click here for full details.

Research Opportunities for 2017 in Various Research Fields

Starting 2017, the Process Engineering Department has many exciting research opportunities for masters and doctoral students, in the fields of Chemical and Extractive Metallurgical Engineering. If you are interested in applying for postgraduate studies at our Department, you may contact the postgraduate manager, Mieke du Plessis, at, Please, also indicate what specific projects you are interested in, so that your application will be directed accordingly.


Get PDF of Process Engineering Research Topics 2017

M.Eng (Research) in Process Monitoring & Systems

Undergraduate degree (four-year or honours) in engineering, computer science, or statistics.

Topic and background:
Adaptive process monitoring incorporating semi-supervised learning and process knowledge.

Process monitoring of industrial processes is a necessary process control task, aimed at the detection of detrimental abnormal events or other sub-optimal process operation. Process monitoring that uses data-driven process models is attractive, due to a number of factors: the increasing availability of more, and more frequent, process measurements; the increasing power and relative ease of the application of statistical techniques in comparison with the difficulty associated with developing fundamental process models for complex processes. One of a number of challenges, associated with data-based process monitoring, is that of incorporating new data and process knowledge insights in order to automatically update the data-driven process models.

The proposed project aims to investigate alleviating the challenge of updating process monitoring models by making use of semi-supervised learning as one approach, and Bayesian inference that incorporates process knowledge, as another approach.

Two students can be accommodated, R 85 000 per student per year.

Start date:
As soon as possible.

Send your CV and academic record to Dr Lidia Auret: .

Post-graduate opportunities in Bioprocess Engineering for M.Eng: 2016-2017

  1. Biological production of fungicides targeting phytopathogens in postharvest crops

  2. Biological production of bactericides effective against tuberculosis

Scope of Research: The preferred candidates are Engineering and Science graduates who are competent to take a role in a dedicated research team working on the bacterial production of antimicrobial agents, fungicides and bactericides, as a novel non-toxic and environmentally benign bio-control alternative to aggressive synthetic chemicals (Project 1), and as a novel disinfectant active against causative agents of tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant organisms (Project 2). This research is empirically based and comprises upstream biokinetics in laboratory scale bioreactors, and downstream separation of the bioproducts. It will be of interest to persons committed to the promotion of food security and health through sustainable disease control via a biological approach.

Host: Stellenbosch University is a leading university in Africa, is recognised internationally as an academic institution of excellence and boasts the second highest number of rated scientists of all universities in South Africa. The university has ten Faculties, with eight on the main campus situated within the picturesque town of Stellenbosch, in the heart of one of the world’s premier wine producing regions. Details of the university can be found at

Requirements: This research follows an integrated approach, incorporating expertise from both engineering and life science disciplines: Bioprocess, Biochemical, Chemical and Biosystems Engineering, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology. The applicant is required to have a 4-year undergraduate degree in Engineering or Science at honours level. Preference will be given to applicants who have, in addition, experience in one or more of the following: submerged microbial bioreactor culture, microbial physiology and kinetics, bioproduct concentration and purification. The position carries associated bursaries for the successful applicants. For further information, please contact Prof Kim Clarke (

Commencement of duties: January 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter

Waste Tyres Processing

This research program deals with valourisation of waste tyres by processing into valuable chemicals and materials. New technologies for such processes are developed through experimental work, and compared/assessed for industrial viability through process simulation, in terms of economics and environmental impact.

The program consists of 10 postgraduate students and 2 postdoctoral researchers, with the following opportunities available to new postgraduate students enrolling in January 2016:

  • Supercritical fluid fractionation of tyre-derived pyrolysis oils for isolation of valuable chemicals
  • Waste tyre crumb and char as a sorption media for purification
  • Co-gasification of waste tyres with biomass and coal for syngas production
  • Simulation of processes for the production of an environmentally-friendly tyre
  • Modification of rubber crumb for use in asphalt and other applications

Note: Bursary funding and research positions are available only to South African citizens with BEng, BScEng, MScEng, MEng, MTech, or equivalent qualifications in Chemical Engineering.


Postgraduate research opportunities: Biomass processing

The following opportunities for postgraduate research studies are available at Process Engineering, Stellenbosch University, in the field of biomass processing and biorefinery development.

Most of these projects represent opportunities for bursary funding of postgraduate studies by South African students with a B.Eng, BScEng, MScEng or MEng qualifications in Chemical Engineering. Candidates with BTech qualifications will not be considered.

For further information on projects and bursary opportunities, please contact Prof Johann Görgens (

1.       Novel processes for small-grains fermentation

Production of alcohols from small grains such as wheat, barley and triticale are well-established commercially. However, these processes are negatively impacted by high energy consumption in starch liquefaction and the fibre content of fermentation residues, sold as animal feed. The present project will develop improved hydrolysis-fermentation processes for triticale grain, by using low temperature enzymes, to reduce energy consumption and improve carbon balances, and by removal of the fibre from grains before fermentation. The latter will significantly improve the quality and economic value of fermentation residues as animal feeds. Novel yeasts with the capability to produce low temperature enzymes during fermentation, will be investigated through a combination of experimental work and process modelling for these processes. Animal feed product qualities will be tested with appropriate methods.

2.       Conversion of pulp mill effluents to alcohols with novel yeasts

Black liquors from sulphite pulping of lignocellulose contain significant amount of xylose sugars, either in the form of xylooligomers or monomers, which are presently burnt for chemicals and energy recovery. However, novel yeasts can convert these sugars into bio-ethanol prior to black liquor combustion, as a means of generating additional mill income. Fermentation of waste streams from pulping operations (and chemicals recovery from these wastes), requires access to a biological process that can withstand the inhibitory chemical components in this waste, and can efficiently convert the available xylose sugars. Newer yeast technologies, engineered for xylose consumption, can achieve high conversions to ethanol in such processes, providing new alternatives for combination of value-extraction with waste treatment. The availability of such xylose-fermenting yeasts, together with the strong inhibitor resistance of yeasts, warrants such fermentation processes a potentially valuable means of waste-stream conversion, both to provide alternative products and energy sources from the pulping process, and as means of reducing the BOD in waste water disposal.

3.       Biorefinery for recovery of valuable products from black liquor

Black liquor from pulping processes contains lignin, carbohydrates; phenolic and organic acids derived from dissolved and degraded plant cell wall components. Most of these compounds have potential for industrial applications, subsequent to recovery from black liquor and required modification, to improve economic returns from pulping operations. For instance, lignin has functional properties that can replace phenols in adhesives and resins, while lignin can also be blended with biopolymers to modify their functional properties. Lignin residues are also a valuable source of humic acids, and with modification, they can also be used as precursors for other downstream products such as dimethyl sulphide and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). The aim of this work is to fractionate black liquor into appreciable amounts hemicelluloses, lignin and the main aliphatic carboxylic acids from black liquor for further characterization and beneficiation. The functionality and commercial value of these compounds varies according to their method of isolation from the plant biomass, which will be assessed in terms of the economic viability of the proposed fractionation processes.

4.       Sugarmill biorefineries

Existing sugarcane mills for sugar production have potential for expansion into biorefineries, to produce a number of value-added products, and maximise the economic value extracted from processed sugarcane. Two key aspects will be considered in several postgrad projects in this overall program on sugarmill biorefinery development.  Firstly, the energy efficiency of existing sugarmills will be optimised through exergy analysis, to identify areas of sugarcane processing where energy efficiency can be improved, possibly through the introduction of newer technological options. This work will be augmented with energy efficiency monitoring in sugar mills, which is a combination of sugar mill process monitoring and modelling.  Energy efficiency optimisation for sugarcane processing will also maximise the amount of lignocelluloses (bagasse and harvest residues) available for conversion to valuable products.  A range of possible biorefineries, represented by different combinations of products/processes for lignocellulose conversion, will be simulated as a basis for comparison and ranking in terms of conversion efficiency (energy, yields), economics and environmental impacts.  The overall program will aim to contribute to develop new opportunities for sugarcane conversion, and will provide at least 3 new postgrad projects in 2016.

5.       Inulin biorefinery development with Jerusalem artichoke (JA)

JA is an agricultural crop that is high in inulin, with potential for expansion of local cultivation. JA can be converted to a range of human food (nutraceuticals, prebiotics, superfoods), animal feeds and bio-energy (ethanol) products.  The present project will optimise ethanol and animal feed production processes, together with economic modelling of alternative biorefinery scenarions. Various combinations of food, fuel and animal feed products will be modelled, to identify options that maximise economic value extracted.

6.       Processing of yellow peas to dietary protein and associated products

P-protein extracted from yellow peas is a high value as speciality protein in human diets and animal feeds. The product has potential for local production, through cultivation and processing of yellow peas. The present project will compare and optimise processes for P-protein extraction, combined with testing of animal feed qualities.  Economics of alternative processes will be investigated, included the conversion of starch and fibre residues to marketable products.

7.       Kinetic modelling of the acidic dehydration of lignocellulosic biomass

The acidic dehydration of lignocellulose can provide value-added products, such as furfural obtained from dehydration of the hemicellulose components of lignocellulose.  The kinetics of such dehydration processes have been described in literature in a fragmented manner.  No comprehensive data set and kinetic model, covering a suitable range of process conditions, is presently available.  The present project will perform systematic, experimental measurement of kinetics of lignocellulose dehydration by acidic catalysts in such a range of process conditions.  This data will be used for kinetic modelling, to provide a comprehensive model of the full operational space.  This model will be used in subsequent simulation studies for process optimisation.


Research opportunities in Process Monitoring and Systems: 2015-2016

The following two, funded research opportunities are available, starting April 2015:

  • Masters in Engineering:

Economic key performance indicators as monitoring statistics

  • Post‐doctoral Researcher:

Process modelling, monitoring and control with applications in mineral processing

For further information, contact Dr L Auret ( Please, remember to include academic history and CV.

Postgraduate opportunities in membrane technology / water treatment:  2015 to 2016

  • MDC (Membrane distillation and crystallisation) for treatment of Brines – cutting edge membrane technology project in collaboration with an international water treatment company
  • Recovery of Aluminium from water treatment residues, using Donnan Dialysis – cutting edge project of major economic and environmental relevance to water treatment works.

Both the above projects are externally sponsored, and offer M bursaries of R 90 000 per year for 2015 and 2016.  The projects require candidates with strong practical engineering and experimental expertise, rather than mathematical modelling skills.

For further information, contact Prof Lingam Pillay ( )


Post-doctoral researcher in thermal separations technology


Research opportunity at Masters level in renewable fuels, with the focus on algae:

  • Project title: Design of an optimal photobioreactor
  • Full bursary available
  • Contact: Dr Els (


© 2011 Copyright Stellenbosch University | Department of Process Engineering