There is an increasing recognition of the importance of the impact of diffuse pollutants such as legacy banned flame retardants through to the emerging nanoparticles or oxidation products. Agricultural land, brownfield sites, recreational and amenity sites involve a wealth of interactions from the use of biosolids recycling to optimise crop yield through to regeneration and urban redevelopment in cities. An understanding of the fate of substances is critical to a sustainable circular economy and resilience in the use of substances and to protect the environment

This project aims to develop a comprehensive framework of experimental and computational methods that can be used in combination to predict the fate and effects of substances in soil, air and water prior to their release into the environment.  Contributions of additional PhD projects over the next five years will build on the existing UK research investment, including the UKWIR £200M Chemical Investigations Programme, which have themselves not created the framework for developed the required computational models. The ambition is to create a centre of excellence as an enduring legacy of the Centa2 investment.

The project will deliver a series of soil, air and water experiments representative of real environments and develop validated models for different UK landscapes and will include determination of transport pathways in soil, air and water, uptake into vegetation and elucidation of bio-degradation products. These will be used to predict the fate, transport and persistence of substances in the environment, which in turn will contribute to the assessment of the environmental impacts that these substances may cause.

In addition to developing the framework the main objective of the results database will be to inform a multi-media fate and transport computation model that will assist the partners and scientists in this area to inform advanced environmental risk based approaches.   It will provide technology and knowledge transfer to the industrial partners, environmental agencies and the wider scientific community. The experimental and computational methods will be available in an electronic written format that can be used as guidance for determining the fate and effects of substances in soil and water environments (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Development of a comprehensive framework of experimental and computational methods to determine the fate and transport of hazardous substances in the environment


The overall purpose and output methodologies will be tailored to the needs of multiple end users supporting investment decisions around resilience, remediation and environmental protection. The project will be divided into three phases. The first phase involves a comprehensive literature review to identify and evaluate suitable multi-media fate and transport models for hazardous substances in soil, air and water. The second phase involves setting up of soil, air and water experiments in controlled conditions to gain empirical data to be used in the multi-modelling. This part of the project builds on current PhD research that focuses on methods for determination of soil, air and water transport pathways at Cranfield University. Phase 2 involves the development of appropriate laboratory scale tests, and analysis of the soil, air and water contaminants to investigate the fate and effects of selected hazardous substances. The methods will be verified by using a series of controlled experiments representative of the chosen UK landscapes. Finally, for phase 3 the combined results from phase 2 will be used to support and evaluate the efficacy of multimedia fate and transport models.

Training and Skills

Cranfield University houses world class experimental facilities, making it well equipped to carry out such project. Cranfield is a post graduate-only establishment and hence highly versed in effective provision of qualifications at this level. Cranfield’s approach to researcher development is based around the Vitae and the Researcher Development Framework. As such, a strong emphasis is placed on developing technical knowledge, through access to specialist modules (e.g. multimedia modelling) as identified jointly with the student, and research methods (e.g. critical literature reviews) as part of the mandatory Core Skills training; and personal effectiveness, through the transferable skills training and “life after Cranfield” sessions.   This project will be part of the environmental science group, therefore extra educational courses will be offered in the areas of hazardous materials in the environment, an introduction to explosives and manufacturing material properties. Students will also have the opportunity to attend courses in environmental modelling (Goldsim) and environmental risk assessment.


Year 1: Undertake full literature review of existing multi-media models for the transport of hazardous substances in air, soil and water. Design controlled set-ups for fate and transport experiments of soil, air and water, alongside selecting four to six representative landscapes in the UK (Temple et al., 2018b).

Year 2: Implement controlled experiments for fate and transport in the laboratory.   Devise and undertake collection of contaminates for testing by selection of appropriate analytical techniques. Design and develop larger up scaled experiments to be undertaken in representative landscapes in the UK (Kumar et al., 2017) (Temple et al., 2018a)

Year 3: Collate and analysis data to support selected multi-media modelling. Test and verify modelling. Write up thesis for submission and undertake oral viva.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This project aims to develop a framework that enables a continuation of projects for the next five years. Therefore, to support these projects in the most effective way four external sponsors have been approached to collaborate and contribute to the project by offering resources, e.g. technical support and funding to help with resources. However, funding is indicative and provisional, and subject to outcome, although there could be a total of £80k. The £80k would be £5k each for four years from each sponsor organisation, see below for potential contributors:


Severn Trent Water

UK Water Industry Research

Environment Agency

Further Details

Contact Name : Temple, T, Ladyman, M, Mai, N, Coulon, F

Contact email: t.temple@cranfield.ac.uk; s.cipullo@cranfield.ac.uk; s.cipullo@cranfield.ac.uk; m.ladyman@cranfield.ac.uk; n.mai@cranfield.ac.uk; f.coulon@cranfield.ac.uk

Address: Cranfield University, Centre for Defence Chemistry, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham, SN6 7LA, UK / Cranfield University, School of Water, Energy and Environment, Cranfield, MK43 0AL, UK

Website: https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/centres/centre-for-defence-chemistry/life-assessment https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/people/professor-frederic-coulon-746115

The student will be based at the Cranfield University CDS campus at Shrivenham in Wiltshire - https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/About/How-to-find-Cranfield/How-to-find-Shrivenham