Visit Reports

Prof Peter Scales: Study Leave Visit Report 2014

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia

The study leave visit to Tsinghua University (TSU) was from Aug 18 to December 2, 2014 with a one week conference visit back to Australia from September 28 to October 5, 2014.  My host during the visit was Professor Zhongjing Wang, Professor in Hydrology and Water Resources, Vice Dean of School of Civil Engineering, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, Tsinghua University.

Prof Wang arranged an on-campus apartment for my visit and I undertook a number of activities including:

  • development of on-going collaborative research between the School of Engineering (UniMelb) and the Department of Hydraulics, (TSU), including consideration of a joint water centre with a focus on the ‘Internet of Water’,
  • finalisation and signing of a joint PhD agreement between the Department of Infrastructure Engineering (UniMelb) and Department of Hydraulic Engineering (TSU),
  • attendance at the China Scholarship Council PhD Fairs in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai on behalf of UniMelb,
  • writing of a joint manuscript with Professor Wang
  • writing and submission of a review manuscript on sludge dewatering
  • writing/completion and submission of a series of journal articles,
  • visits to other research groups both within and external to TSU
  • presentation of a series of research seminars and
  • a visit to a research site in Yumen, Gansu Provence.

Joint Centre

A strong relationship has been developed between researchers at UniMelb and TSU in the areas of regional water productivity, with a test site in Gansu Provence being used for demonstrations of Total Channel Control systems, on-farm irrigation systems and approaches to water trading.  Further work is being prosecuted in ground water dynamics and utilisation as well as total water balance monitoring using evapotranspiration and satellite monitoring.  My work aimed at adding water quality monitoring and process options for water purification and recycle to this mix.  Taken as a whole, the opportunity now exists to consider a total water management framework where the system is Web hosted. This has been termed the ‘internet of water’ by Prof Wang.  It sits nicely with research efforts at UniMelb and other, currently unrelated work on the ‘internet of things’.  In the next few months, the Australian Government is looking to set up an Australian Water Centre with a focus on the Indo-Pacific Region, inclusive of China.  It will have a focus on aid, technology and commercial outcomes for Australia. It looks to be the ideal platform to launch a joint centre on the internet of water between UniMelb and TSU.  In the event that the Australian Water Centres is not located at UniMelb, we will look to have the Australia-China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management refunded.  In either case, the centre between UniMelb and TSU needs a funding source from the Australian end.  Carlton Connect is an ideal location for the centre.  In short, this component on my study leave was not completed but planning is complete for when a funding source becomes available.

PhD agreement

A block of time was spent during the study leave visit to establish a joint PhD program between the Department of Infrastructure Engineering (UniMelb) and Department of Hydraulic Engineering (TSU). This involved re-writing the agreement that is already in place between the Departments of Chemical Engineering at both Universities. The agreement was modified to include the requirement that all students, who are required to spend a minimum amount of time at both institutions, undertake subjects that provide reflective learning on the culture, language and ways of thinking in both countries.  Technical subjects can be taken in either location.  The agreement was signed on 24 October 2014.  Professor Wang and myself spoke to the program prior to the signing of the agreement by the respective heads of Department.

China Scholarship Council (CSC)

UniMelb have been attending the CSC fairs, held each October, for the past two years.  The fairs represent an opportunity to attract PhD students to UniMelb although funding is also available for exchange.  A large percentage of the students that attend the fairs are interested in medicine, engineering and agriculture.  I attended fairs in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, along with other UniMelb representatives from either Melbourne or the local China office.

Joint manuscript

I had the opportunity to attend the Chinese Hydraulic Engineering Society Annual Conference in Tianjin, China.  As part of this conference, the University of Melbourne and Tsinghua University co-hosted a joint international session on Water trading and water rights.  I presented a paper entitled “Water Productivity, Regional Water Security and Sustainable Development (the Role of Automated Water Control Technologies)”.  It provided an audit of the benefits of Total Channel Control and on-farm automation technologies in an irrigation district in Australia and both the case for and the issues associated with transference of these technologies to China.  A joint paper was also written. Final edits are awaited from the collaboration group at TSU, as is a final decision on the location of a special issue associated with the conference.  Mr David Lewis, with partial sponsorship from the Australia-China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management, also attended the conference.

Articles written and submitted

Ten manuscripts were prepared during the study leave visit.  Five of these were fully written from concept to submission/ready for submission (as indicated by an ‘*’ below), including a review article on sewage sludge dewatering.  The other manuscripts were reviewed and edited during the period, with the majority of the initial writing done by others.

  1. R Buscall, TE Kusuma, AD Stickland, S Rubasingha, PJ Scales, HE Teo and GL Worrall, “The non-monotonic shear-thinning flow of two strongly cohesive concentrated suspensions, Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics (Accepted, 28/9/2014)
  2. *R Spehar, A Kiviti-Manor, SP Usher, P Fawell, M Rudman and PJ Scales, “Aggregate densification in the thickening of flocculated suspensions in an un-networked bed,” Chemical Engineering Science, 122: 585-595 (2015)
  3. BHJ Yap, GJ Dumsday, PJ Scales and GJO Martin, “Energy evaluation of algal cell disruption by high pressure homogenization,” Bioresource Technology (accepted 11/11/2014)
  4. EM Spiden, PJ Scales, BHJ Yap, SE Kentish, DR Hill and GJO Martin, “The effects of acidic and thermal pre-treatment on the mechanical rupture of two industrially relevant microalgae: Chlorella sp. and Navicula sp.” Algal Research, (accepted17/11/2014)
  5. R Buscall, PJ Scales, AD Stickland, HE Teo and DR Lester, Dynamic and rate-dependent yielding in model cohesive suspensions,” Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics (submitted 30/9/2014)
  6. *Y Zhang, P Grassia, A Martin, SP Usher and PJ Scales, “Analysis and control of thickeners subject to aggregate densification,” Chemical Engineering Science (submitted 6/10/2014)
  7. Y Zhang, P Grassia, A Martin, SP Usher and PJ Scales, “Mathematical modeling of batch sedimentation subject to slow aggregate densification,” Chemical Engineering Science (submitted 6/10/2014)
  8. *S Skinner, L Studer, DR Dixon, P Hillis, C Rees, R Wall, RG Cavalida, SP Usher, AD Stickland and PJ Scales, “Quantification of wastewater sludge dewatering,” Water Research, (submitted 29/11/2014)
  9. *DV Boger, F Sofra and PJ Scales, “Rheological concepts,” in Paste and Thickened Tailings-A Guide (Third Edition), RJ Jewell and AB Fourie (Editors), Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Western Australia, Section 3, (submitted 27/11/2014)
  10. *Z Zheng, H ZHeng, Z Wang, D Skinner, SK Ooi, P Wang and PJ Scales, “Water productivity and the role of automated water control technologies,” International Journal of Water Resources Development, to be submitted.

Three of the submitted articles were submitted and then accepted for publication during the period of the study leave and one was submitted and published in the time period.  I also worked on a Special Issue of Water Research on Sludge Handling as a Guest Editor.

Research Seminars

I had the opportunity to present a range of seminars at both TSU and in other forums, including the Carlton Connect Conference held at the University of Melbourne in October 2014.  These presentations included:

  1. “Direct potable water recycle,” Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, September 2014
  2. “Emerging issues in water resources management — The Australia-China water partnership,” Carlton Connect Conference, University of Melbourne, October 2014
  3. “Application of phage for control of waste water foaming,” Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, October 2014
  4. “Water productivity, regional water security and sustainable development, the role of automated water control technologies,” International session, China Hydraulics Society Annual Symposium, Tianjin, China, October 2014
  5. “Quantitative sewage sludge dewatering,” Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, November 2014
  6. “Water productivity and the role of automated control technologies,” Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou, China, November 2014
  7. “Water productivity and the role of automated control technologies,” Wuhan University, Wuhan, China, November 2014
  8. “Water recycle and breaking the pollution cycle,” Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, China, November 2014
  9. “Water recycle and breaking the pollution cycle,” School of Environment, Tsinghua University, China, November 2014

In addition, I also presented two non-research seminars, namely:

  1. “Organisational challenges for the School of Engineering at Melbourne,” Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, China, September 2014
  2. “Australia-China Centre Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management,” presented to the Department Secretary (Dr Banerjee), Department of Industry (Australia) on his visit to the Institute for Water Resources and Hydraulic Research (IWHR), Beijing, October 2014

Field visit

I had the opportunity, along with Prof Wang and Mr Patrick Wang fro Rubicon, to visit Gansu Province and study a project on the implementation of Total Channel Control technologies on a series of Rubicon gates deployed in the Changma irrigation District, Yumen.  Although the project is in the initial stages of deployment, with 60 gates still to be installed in 2014/2015, we were able to see the system operating.  We also visited the TSU farm site to look at the location of our joint on-farm irrigation automation testing.  The visit concluded with a review of next steps in the district, in conjunction with lead personnel from the local irrigation authority.


I thank my host (Prof Wang) and PhD students in his research group for making my study leave visit both enjoyable and academically stimulating.  I have developed new collaborative relationships with CAS (Research Centre for Eco Environmental Sciences), School of Environment (Tsinghua University) and Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Wuhan University.