Associate Professor Ajit Kumar Sarmah

PhD (Soil and Water), University of Adelaide, Australia; MS (Soil Physics) University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia; MEng (Soil and Water), Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand; BScAgEng (Dist), University of Allahabad, India


  • Associate Professor, Clarivate (Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher 2021)

Dr. Sarmah is an Associate Professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department within the Environmental Engineering Group. Prior to joining The University of Auckland, he was a Senior Research Scientist with Landcare Research, a Crown Research Institute (CRI) in Hamilton, NZ for nearly 10 years. Earlier he worked in the School of Civil Engineering and School of Agronomy of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA as a Visiting Scientist, as a Research Officer at the University of Western Australia, and as a Research Associate at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand.

He currently leads multi-disciplinary research projects in a number of topical and environmentally significant areas:

  • Production of biochar and characterisation using novel techniques;
  • Soil organic matter characterisation to quantify changes in soil C pools as affected by land-use changes,
  • Fate and transport behaviour of endocrine disrupting chemicals (i.e single free and conjugated hormones associated with land-application of dairy effluent), veterinary medicines and personal care products in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
  • Development of novel adsorbents using biochar to remove contaminants from aqueous and soil systems;
  • Design, development and testing of wood plastic biochar composite and testing their mechanical, thermal properties
  • Development of novel biosensors using waste derived black carbon 
  • Innovative use of biochar as construction material and application in geotechnical research 

Ajit has active collaboration with colleagues from overseas (Tsinghua University, China; NSW Industry & Investment; Khon Kaen University, Thailand; Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Guwahati, India; University of Wuppertal, Germany; University of Trier, Germany; Shantou University, China; Zhejiang University, China; Korea University, Seoul and Hong University of Science & Technology, Hong Kong) and within NZ (Landcare Research, Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council).

Research | Current

  • Sustainable waste utilisation through biochar added wood plastic composite
  • Photo-catalytic degradation of sulfamethoxazole using novel magnetic adsorbents in aqueous systems
  • Investigation of nanomaterials and plant inetraction through integrated biophysical methods
  • Fate (sorption-desorption and degradation kinetics), transport, modelling and effects of emerging contaminants including natural (free and conjugated hormones) and synthetic estrogens, veterinary and human pharmaceuticals in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Prioritisation and risk assessment of emerging chemicals (human and veterinary drugs, nano-materials) including pesticide degradates in NZ’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Phospholipid Fatty Acid (PLFA) analysis to determine the changes in microbial community structure and their role in antibiotic degradation in laboratory soil microcosms.
  • Pyrolysis and biochar production/characterisation, Biochar as an effective engineered sorbent for contaminant uptake, C sequestration and climate change mitigation.
  • Biochar as soil amendment to improve soil hydrology, mitigate soil erosion and nutrient loss.
  • Soil-organic matter characterisation using novel techniques (SEM-EDAX, FTIR, NMR, TEM, DG-DSC, Py-GCSM) to quantify changes in C pools as a function of land-use change.

Research groups

Teaching | Current


  • ENVENG 244 Environmental Engineering 1
  • ENVENG 342 Environmental Engineering Design
  • ENVENG 341 Environmental Engineering 2
  • ENVENG 747 Soil Contaminant & Fate Modelling

Postgraduate supervision

Current Ph.D. students:

  • Hasan Karkoosh (Staretd June 2019)
  • Savitri (Started Feb 2017)
  • Nana Zhang (Started Nov 2017)

Completed Ph.D. Students: (Main Supervisor)

  • Venkata Sai Praneeth Doranadula, PhD (2021)
  • Farzaneh Feizi, Ph.D. (2021)
  • Najam Ul Saqib, Ph.D. ( 2020)
  • Gody De Bhowmick, Ph.D. (2020)
  • Ali Akhtar, Ph.D. (2020)
  • Rowena Briones, Ph.D. (2018)
  • Wuttipong Mahakham, Ph.D. (2018)
  • Febelyn Reguyal, Ph.D. (2017)
  • Oisik Das, Ph.D. (2017)
  • Bridget Rule, Ph.D. (2017)
  • Prakash Srinivasan, Ph.D. (2013)
  • Laura Steiner, Ph.D. (2009)
  • Frank Scherr, Ph.D. (2009)

Co-supervision of Ph.D.

  • Gislaine Pardo (2018): Completed 
  • Mostafa Saifan, Ph.D. (2018): University of Waikato: Completed
  • Sumaraj (UoA, 2021): Submitted
  • Jiazhe Chen (UoA, 2021): On-going
  • Mazdak Rasapoor (2020): Completed

Masters Students:

  • Bo Zhang (ME completed in 2013)
  • Shanshan Zhang (ME completed in 2014)
  • Xiaochen Yang (ME completed in 2016)
  • Kate Dawkins (ME completed in 2016)
  • Anna Lewis (ME completed in 2018)
  • Adnan Zameer (ME completed in 2018)

Postdoctoral Fellows:

  • Dr. Prakash Srinivasan (2012-2014)
  • Dr. Saeid Baroutian (2014-2015)


  • Highly Cited Author (2005-2010; 2006-2011) Award: A Global Perspective on the Use, Sales, Exposure Pathways, Occurrence, Fate and Effects of Veterinary Antibiotics (VAs) in the Environment” Sarmah et al. Chemosphere: Vol 65 (5), 725-759, 2006. To date, cited > 2300 (google scholar), and > 1500 (SCOPUS) times.
  • Invited by Centre for Environmental Contaminant Research, CSIRO Land and Water, Adelaide to contribute to a book chapter on “Biochar” between the Landcare Research and CSIRO Land and Water. June, 2009, with all expenses paid.
  • Best Poster Award at the Asia Pacific Biochar Conference 17-19 May, 2009, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Poster titled: Retention capacity of three types of biochar for an estrogenic steroid hormone and its primary metabolites in a NZ dairy farm soil.
  • Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) International Science and Technology (ISAT) grant: “Prioritisation of emerging contaminants using toxicity & exposure modelling and the impact of climate change on their fate in the NZ environment.” Hosted Professor Alistair Boxall, Fellow, Food and Environment Research Agency/University of York, York, the UK. June 2009.
  • Best Poster Award at the Annual New Zealand Hydrological Society Conference, 16–18 November, 2004, Queenstown, New Zealand. Poster titled: Modelling the dissipation kinetics of six commonly used pesticides in New Zealand
  • ISAT (International Science And Technology) Linkages Fund from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MORST) to attend & present paper at the INTERACT 2002 Conference, Sydney 21-25 July, 2002,
  • Research Abroad Award from the Grains Research and Development Corporation of Australia in 1998 to visit and work at DuPont Experimental Station, Wilmington, USA, 12-22 Feb 1998.
  • Travel and study abroad scholarship from the University of Adelaide and the CRC for Soil and Land Management, Adelaide to present paper at the 38th WSSA annual meeting in Chicago (9-11 Feb. 1998) and to visit the Institute for Arable Crop Research (Rothamsted), U.K.
  • Grain Research & Development Corporation of Australia PhD scholarship the Department of Soil and Water, The University of Adelaide, South Australia
  • Postgraduate Scholarship by the Royal Government of Norway in 1987 to pursue M.Eng at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand


  • Departmental Postgraduate Coordinator 
  • Member, University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (UAHPEC) (2016-2017)
  • Theme Leader, Infrastructure & Environment (2014-2016)
  • Member, Faculty research Committee (2014-2016)
  • Member, Equity Committee (2013-2015)

Areas of expertise

  • Environmental fate, distribution and modelling of organic contaminants including estrogenic steroid hormones and veterinary antibiotics
  • Role of black carbon in contaminants bioavailability and fate, biochar characterisation
  • Prioritisation of contaminants of concern using exposure modelling and toxicity approach
  • Climate change issues including sustainable science & engineering
  • Pyrolysis of biomass for biochar and biofuel production, bioenergy
  • Development of novel biocomposites and building/construction materials from organic waste.
  • Thermal and spectroscopic investigation of natural non-living organic matter

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Editorial Services

  • Editorial Advisory Board Member, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science & Technology (Elsevier): IF 12.296
  • Editorial Board Member, Process Safety & Environmental Protection (Elsevier): IF 6.158
  • Editorial Board Member, Trends in Analytical Chemistry (Taylor & Francis) IF 12.561
  • Associate Editor, Science of the Total Environment (Elsevier) IF 7.96 
  • Associate Editor, Environmental Management (Springer) IF 3.266 
  • Guest Editor, Biodegradation (Springer) [S.I. : GeoTrop 2017]
  • Managing Guest Editor, (BWR: 2017, STOTEN)
  • Editorial Board member, Nanotechnology for Environmental Engineers (Springer) IF 2.45
  • Editorial Board Member, (Springer) BIOCHAR 

Professional affiliations

  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
  • Australia New Zealand Biochar Network 
  • Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPEMNZ)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Gupt, C. B., Bordoloi, S., Sekharan, S., & Sarmah, A. K. (2020). Adsorption characteristics of Barmer bentonite for hazardous waste containment application. Journal of hazardous materials, 39610.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122594
  • Praneeth, S., Guo, R., Wang, T., Dubey, B. K., & Sarmah, A. K. (2020). Accelerated carbonation of biochar reinforced cement-fly ash composites: Enhancing and sequestering CO2 in building materials. CONSTRUCTION AND BUILDING MATERIALS, 24410.1016/j.conbuildmat.2020.118363
  • Sharma, H. B., Sarmah, A. K., & Dubey, B. (2020). Hydrothermal carbonization of renewable waste biomass for solid biofuel production: A discussion on process mechanism, the influence of process parameters, environmental performance and fuel properties of hydrochar. RENEWABLE & SUSTAINABLE ENERGY REVIEWS, 12310.1016/j.rser.2020.109761
  • Ni, J. J., Bordoloi, S., Shao, W., Garg, A., Xu, G., & Sarmah, A. K. (2020). Two-year evaluation of hydraulic properties of biochar-amended vegetated soil for application in landfill cover system. The Science of the total environment, 71210.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136486
  • Rao, Y., Ding, Y., Sarmah, A. K., Liu, D., & Pan, B. (2020). Vertical distribution of pore-aggregate-cement paste in statically compacted pervious concrete. CONSTRUCTION AND BUILDING MATERIALS, 23710.1016/j.conbuildmat.2019.117605
  • Sharma, H. B., Panigrahi, S., Sarmah, A. K., & Dubey, B. K. (2020). Downstream augmentation of hydrothermal carbonization with anaerobic digestion for integrated biogas and hydrochar production from the organic fraction of municipal solid waste: A circular economy concept. The Science of the total environment, 70610.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135907
  • Rasapoor, M., Young, B., Brar, R., Sarmah, A., Zhuang, W.-Q., & Baroutian, S. (2020). Recognizing the challenges of anaerobic digestion: Critical steps toward improving biogas generation. FUEL, 26110.1016/j.fuel.2019.116497
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Brent Young, Saeid Baroutian
  • Rasapoor, M., Young, B., Asadov, A., Brar, R., Sarmah, A. K., Zhuang, W.-Q., & Baroutian, S. (2020). Effects of biochar and activated carbon on biogas generation: A thermogravimetric and chemical analysis approach. ENERGY CONVERSION AND MANAGEMENT, 20310.1016/j.enconman.2019.112221
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Brent Young, Saeid Baroutian


Contact details

Primary office location

2-6 PARK AVENUE - Bldg 529
Level 3, Room 308
New Zealand

Web links