PhD Scholarship of ARC LP: Transforming pastefill delivery system for next-generation mining industry: Optimal Design, Analysis and Prototyping of Innovative Pastefill Delivery System

School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment

Lead Researcher: Prof. Richard (Chunhui) Yang.

About the project

Steel pipeline systems are the most often used method for paste-fill (e.g., slurry) delivery in the underground mining due to the lowest potential operational costs in terms of logistics. However, pastefill delivery is identified as one of the most vulnerable parts in the overall underground mining process as it has a significant impact on operations when it fails. Due to the strict requirement for controlled compressive strength of the paste, a careful balance of the paste delivery and paste rheology must be maintained. This creates multiple challenges for the operator as the paste must be piped underground in long distances vertically and horizontally away from the batching/mixing plant. Incorrect pipe size leads to high velocity paste that becomes extremely abrasive to the pipe, causing expensive premature pipe replacement every six months. Attempts to control the velocity and discharge pressure of pastefill flow often involve conventional steel friction loops with multiple angle elbows. However excessive room is needed, which is a big challenge for underground space. Furthermore, the steel pipe is prone to corrosion and the multiple sharp-angle elbows in the friction loop system are prone to wear-induced failure, which remain critical issues in engineering practices. Also, restricting the flow using friction loops to minimise friction can cause insufficient discharge rates or even blockages in lateral pipes as the mining moves further away from a batching plant.

  1. To address these critical issues and the urgent call for an effective and durable pipeline system by our industry partner, this project aims to develop a novel, cost-effective and durable pipeline system with a new composite choke pipe to replace the conventional complex steel friction loops. The specific objectives of the ARC DP project are
    Develop a novel AI and numerical modelling-based optimal design and analysis platform for the smart and durable pipeline system. The robust numerical modelling tools - Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Discrete Element Method (DEM) and AI-aided scheme will be used.
  2. Develop coupled FEA-CFD-DEM numerical modelling for correlating rheological behaviours of pastefill material and pipeline performance. Data will be extracted as part of the ANN training database.
  3. Conduct optimal design of the innovative composite pipeline system. Its conceptual layout including the new composite choke pipe will be studied with numerical optimisation and AI techniques, considering key design parameters and constraints, such as pastefill flow velocity, discharge pressure, pipe geometry and size.
  4. Manufacture the novel composite choke pipe and conduct onsite testing for industry application. Innovative 3D printing technique will be adopted to fabricate the composite choke pipe. A series of onsite testing will be conducted, and the experimental data are used to validate the proposed design platform and to also form the other part of the ANN training database.

Two PhD students and one Postdoctoral Research Fellow will be recruited to work along with the Chief Investigators for this project including Profs. Yixia (Sarah) Zhang, Richard (Chunhui) Yang, A/Prof Kejun Dong, Dr Zhongpu (Leo) Zhang and our Partner Investigator Mr Scott Cheevers.


This PhD project will work on objectives 1), 3) and 4) as listed above, with a focus to conduct optimal design of the innovative composite pipeline system. Its conceptual layout including the new composite choke pipe will be studied with numerical optimisation and AI techniques, considering key design parameters and constraints, such as pastefill flow velocity, discharge pressure, pipe geometry and size. A good understanding on mining pipelines’ design would be desired to achieve the project’s objectives and aim.


We are now offering a research scholarship to a highly motivated PhD candidate. This PhD scholarship is funded by Graduate Studies School, Western Sydney University with $31,500 per year for three years.  Tuition fee will be waived by the university for the PhD candidate who is offered the scholarship. The PhD student is supervised by Prof. Richard (Chunhui) Yang as the principal Supervisor and co-supervised by Prof. Yixia (Sarah) Zhang, A/Prof Kejun Dong, and Mr. Scott Cheevers.


Western Sydney University (WSU) is a modern, forward-thinking, research-led university, located at the heart of Australia’s fastest growing and economically significant Western Sydney region. Boasting 11 campuses - many in CBD locations – and more than 170,000 alumni, 44,000 students and 3000 staff, the University has 13 Schools with an array of well-designed programs and courses carefully structured to meet the demands of future industry. The University is ranked in the top two per cent of Universities worldwide and as a research leader, 80 per cent of the University’s assessed research is rated at ‘World Standard’ or above. WSU was ranked #34 in the world in the 2021 Times Higher Education Young University Rankings. WSU was ranked #1 in the world in the 2022 and 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Ranking.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $31,500 (AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.
  • International candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $31,500(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver.
  • Support for conference attendance, fieldwork and additional costs for materials/consumables/small equipment, up to $6,650 per year as approved by School/Institute.

[International candidates are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance policy for the duration of their study in Australia. This cost is not covered by the scholarship.]

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Materials, Mechanical Design, Experimental Testing, or other relevant areas such as Mining Engineering with working experience on Pipeline Design. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests in composites and nanotechnology are desired although not compulsory.

The successful applicant should:

  • Hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor’s Honours Engineering Degree or Second Class Division 1, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Master’s degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • Demonstrate excellent academic records on the subjects – engineering mechanics, mechanics of materials, and materials engineering or relevant.
  • Experience on composites and nanotechnology is desired although not compulsory.
  • Research experience on experimental testing is desired.
  • Have good academic writing capability with publications in quality journals.
  • Be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
  • Have good communication and teamwork skills.

International applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency.(opens in a new window)

How to apply

Follow the step-by-step instructions on the how to apply for a project scholarship(opens in a new window) page.

  • Note: You do not need to complete 'Step 5: Submit an online application for admission' when applying for this scholarship. You must complete 'Step 6: Submit an online application for a project scholarship'.

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

For questions and advice about the research project, please contact the Lead Researcher;

Prof Richard (Chunhui) Yang: r.yang@westernsydney.edu.au

Applications close 29 February 2024

*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT).

Scholarship reference code: PS2024_035_SoEDBE(a)