Evaluation of Eucalyptus Nitens Biomass for Generation of Commodity Chemicals

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Research into alternatives to fossil fuels for commodity feedstocks has accelerated in recent years as we drive to reduce our reliance on non-sustainable resources.  Plant -based biomass is a potential renewable carbon feedstock for commodity chemicals for industrial applications.  Many processes for transforming biomass have been known for decades but the problem lies in that wood-fibre needs pre-processing to be suitable for these applications.  This includes pre-treatment with organic solvents or reagents to separate the lignan from the cellulose prior to further transformation of both of these biomass streams.  Recently we have been developing pressurised hot water extraction as an alternative to organic solvents for the extraction of natural products.  Preliminary experiments have demonstrated potential for this method as a pre-treatment of wood-fibre.  As an example, lignan needs to be removed from the cellulose before it could be into enzymatically converted to glucose and then further through to ethanol, both valuable commodity chemicals.  As the lignin is not chemically modified, unlike most other processes (ie. Kraft bleaching), it can then be processed separately either through pyrolysis to generate biofuel or other processes.  The project will investigate pressurised hot water extraction as a method for pre-treatment of wood-fibre from Eucalyptus Nitens and other plantation species towards lignin and cellulose as renewable sources for commodity chemicals.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Jason Smith


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • The project is open to both domestic and international applicants
  • Applicants must have been awarded a first class Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant area of research in the chemical sciences or chemical engineering
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate research and analytical skills
  • Research must be undertaken on a full time basis

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Jason Smith to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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