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  , ,  Monday, February 27, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Bacteria are one of nature’s oldest living machines. They secrete extracellular polymers which self-organise leading to the formation of a viscoelastic material known as the biofilm. Biofilms have beneficial (e.g., bioremediation or nitrogen fixation in plants) or detrimental effects (e.g., infections in medical setting and fouling of ship hulls leading to increased drag) and their impact on the worldwide economy is estimated to be 5000 billion dollars [1]. As a result, within a variety of industries there is an immediate need to develop engineering solutions to minimise the growth of biofilms on surfaces and reduce the costs of the impact of contamination. This project aims to develop a novel class of magnetic elastomeric materials with tailored porosity and/or surface functionalisation. It is envisaged that the combination of magnetic actuation and porosity/surface functionalisation will lead to superior antifouling performance compared to the existing methods [2, 3, 4]. The efficacy and endurance of these materials against long term biofilm development and macro-fouling will be tested within fluidic chambers with controlled hydrodynamic conditions.

We are looking for an enthusiastic engineer with a penchant for building experimental setups and ability to learn/implement new techniques beyond traditional discipline boundaries. The individual will utilize the advanced instruments for nano/bio-engineering research at Ulster and will have the opportunity to collaborate within partners in UK, USA, and Europe. Opportunities for presentations at conferences, publications in leading multidisciplinary journals and visit to industrial partners would provide opportunities for career development and employment in academia and/or industry.


References

[1] Cámara, M., Green, W., MacPhee, C.E., Rakowska, P.D., Raval, R., Richardson, M.C., Slater-Jefferies, J., Steventon, K. and Webb, J.S., 2022. Economic significance of biofilms: a multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral challenge. npj Biofilms and Microbiomes, 8(1), pp.1-8.
[2] Cao, Y., Su, B., Chinnaraj, S., Jana, S., Bowen, L., Charlton, S., Duan, P., Jakubovics, N.S. and Chen, J., 2018. Nanostructured titanium surfaces exhibit recalcitrance towards Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilm formation. Scientific reports, 8(1), pp.1-13.
[3] Cao, Y., Jana, S., Bowen, L., Tan, X., Liu, H., Rostami, N., Brown, J., Jakubovics, N.S. and Chen, J., 2019. Hierarchical rose petal surfaces delay the early-stage bacterial biofilm growth. Langmuir, 35(45), pp.14670-14680.
[4] Cao, Y., Jana, S., Tan, X., Bowen, L., Zhu, Y., Dawson, J., Han, R., Exton, J., Liu, H., McHale, G. and Jakubovics, N.S., 2020. Antiwetting and antifouling performances of different LubricantInfused slippery surfaces. Langmuir, 36(45), pp.13396-13407.

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