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  • UTS Three Minute Thesis (3MT) 2019 winners
  • An 80,000 word PhD thesis takes 9 hours to present. Their time limit: 3 minutes!

    See the best researchers and presenters from each Faculty battle it out for the opportunity to represent UTS at the Asia-Pacific Grand Final.

    UTS research is daring…

    “What should we do if there were aliens coming to attack our planet? Should we prepare for the fight or send someone to negotiate for the peace? ” Yingyod Lapwong, Faculty of Science

    thought-provoking …

    “Do you ever feel like our politicians are just not listening to us? I know whenever I’m in that voting queue, I’m always thinking this doesn’t really matter. The same person’s going to be elected and they probably won’t listen to what I want” Eamon McGinn, UTS Business School

    innovative …

    “Our urine is like liquid gold, and I’m going to prove it to you” Frederico Volpin, Faculty of Engineering and IT

    socially responsible …

    “Imagine tomorrow I walk into your house and I say your house is not yours anymore” Gautam Pingali, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building

    … powerful

    “What the government didn’t count on was that you can breed out the colour in our skin, but you cannot breed out the culture in our hearts and minds. That there’s no way our stories will die while I stand here today.” Shannon Foster, Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges

    Come and see the best that UTS research has to offer.

    2019 UTS 3MT Final, Wednesday 25 September. Register now at

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    An 80,000 word PhD thesis would take 9 hours to present.

    Their time limit:
    3 MINUTES!

  • About 3MT

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    Prizes and rules

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    Faculty heats

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    Eligibility and progression

  • 3MT

    Previous winners

    2018 | 2017 | 2016

  • Pee cycling: Transforming our urine into valuable fertiliser

    Federico Volpin, UTS Three Minute Thesis 2018

    Our urine is like liquid gold. And I’m going to prove it to you.

    That is because urine is incredibly rich in nitrogen and phosphorus which are essential elements to make our proteins, cell tissues and most importantly, our DNA. There’s not a single living organism who can survive without phosphorus.

    However, our phosphorus reserves are expected to start depleting in less than 30 years from now. Since we cannot make artificial phosphorus it is imperative that we start recycling and reusing the phosphorus in our waste in order to feed a population which is growing exponentially.

    Urine in particular, because of its high nutrient concentration is the single largest source of phosphorus and nitrogen from urban areas. We have estimated that every year just at UTS we are flushing down the toilets over 30000 kilograms of phosphorus and nitrogen with our urine.

    That means that if we would have recovered all those nutrients since the foundation of UTS, 30 years ago, by now we would have saved over $18 million.

    So why are we not using urine directly as a fertiliser already? Well, apart from the obvious answer, it stinks, the presence of pharmaceuticals in urine makes its direct application not an option as we don’t really want them to end up in our food.

    And that is why in my research I’m developing a new process to produce a urine based fertiliser which is safe, odourless and effective. In this process, I’m using a membrane very similar to the one which protects the cell in our body to filter out the nutrients from the contaminants. The nutrients are then crystallised into fertiliser which is exactly identical to the commercially available one.

    By tuning the chemistry of the membrane we can now achieve over 99% rejection of the pharmaceuticals while recovering the majority of the phosphorus and nitrogen.

    We are now applying this technology at the UTS Engineering building which is a 15-story high-rise office building And to prove the feasibility of this technology we are using all the urine collected from the male urinals at the FEIT building.

    The ultimate goal is to produce and commercialise a fertiliser which is safe and effective.

    So please, next time you have to answer the call of nature, do it at UTS.

    [laughter and applause]

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