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PhD scholarship: Assessment of smouldering in engineered and CCA treated timber products

Apply now Job No:511717
Area:Faculty Of Engineering, Architecture & Info Tech
Salary (FTE):RTP Scholarship NON-BANDED ($28,092.00 - $28,092.00)
Work type:Full Time - Scholarship
Location: St Lucia

Research Environment

UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

School of Civil Engineering

Within the School of Civil Engineering fantastic expertise and facilities are available for research on timber, including excellent technical support (from staff familiar with timber) and manufacturing facilities. The fire safety laboratory at UQ is a state-of-the-art facility where students can devise and carry out novel experiments that will lead to high impact results. The successful candidate would be able to closely work with leading researchers in the field of timber durability from the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life, situated at The University of the Sunshine Coast. There are currently multiple other PhD students in the fire safety research group, creating a welcoming and helpful work environment.

The award

Supervisor – Dr Felix Wiesner

Timber is a popular and important construction material with benefits to the Australian and international economy. It is used for housing, commercial and infrastructure projects. In addition, it is an important tool to reduce national and global carbon footprints due to the sequestration of carbon during the growth of wood. As an organic material, timber is combustible and its use in construction poses multiple fire safety challenges, which are currently being addressed in multiple research projects. One major issue that is not currently widely considered for the fire safety of wooden products is smouldering, the generation of heat through the oxidation of the solid phase of char and wood. It can progress without the presence of flaming and can continue to destroy timber structures after an interior fire has consumed all moveable fuel or after a bush fire has passed.

Smouldering has been reported as an issue for timber infrastructure in bush fires, where power and fence poles have been reported to continue to degrade through smouldering combustion after fires have passed; this has been identified, but not studied in detail, in poles with copper-based durability treatments. Copper chromium arsenate (CCA) is a timber treatment agent used to increase durability in outdoor applications. It can be used to enable the use of timber for outdoor infrastructure; for example, for electricity poles or timber landscaping features (e.g. fenceposts, sleepers). While the problem of afterglow in CCA treated products appears to be well known anecdotally by experts in the field of timber treatments, there is limited published research on this phenomenon.

The project will consist of multiple work packages. (1) a detailed literature review on past observations of the occurrence of smouldering of timber in mass timber compartments and treated timber infrastructure. (2) the design of an experimental set-up to induce smouldering conditions in timber with high repeatability to (3) investigate the effect of different treatments and treatment loadings on smouldering and extinguishment. (4) the assessment of smouldering in mass timber connections and timber plasterboard interfaces through small scale experiments using radiant panels, and (5) definition of an analytical framework to assess the risk of smouldering under consideration of input parameters such as fire intensity and duration, timber treatment type, and design details. 

A working knowledge of fire dynamics, fire safety engineering, experience of working in a fire safety laboratory and fire safety of timber structures would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ. Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of fire safety science, fire dynamics, fire engineering and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of timber fire safety, working in a fire safety laboratory and understanding of basic experimental principles is highly desirable.


The 2021 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$28,597 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three years with one possible extension of up to 6 months in approved circumstances (conditions apply).


For further information, please contact Dr Felix Wiesner at +61 7 3365 8395

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘WIESNER TIMBER’ in the 'Name of scholarship' field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

Applications close: 30 November 2020 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time


Applications close: E. Australia Standard Time

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