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Bacterial cellulose as functional material for novel optical fibre biosensor (Advert Reference: MRDF22/EE/BB/WU)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Qiang Wu, Dr Meng Zhang  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Cellulose is the most abundant biomaterial in the world and is already widely used in a range of manufacturing contexts. Though conventionally, cellulose is commonly found with other organic polymers such as lignin and hemicellulose to form commonly used biomaterials like wood, Bacterial cellulose (BC) is, in contrast, composed of ‘pure’ cellulose. Though many bacteria can produce cellulose, the Komagataeibacter genus is one of the most productive and can produce a pure BC pellicle. The BC material itself has high purity, crystallinity, tensile strength, biocompatability and biodegradability. The 3D porous network structure makes BC a superb scaffolding material which can incorporate other molecules to provide with various functionalities including antibacterial property and catalytic property.

Fibre optic sensors (FOSs) have been widely used in industrial and scientific applications. They are advancing rapidly along with optical communications and have become the “tentacles” of Internet of Things global network, where anything and everything in the physical world with identifiable characteristics can be equipped with sensors. They can measure and transmit data to dedicated platforms for storage, processing and analysis. FOSs are particularly suitable for biochemical sensing in aqueous, flammable, explosive, and corrosive biochemical environments. In order to achieve biochemical sensing capability, a thin molecule/biomarker capture layer can be coated on the fibre sensor surface. For example, we have used a silane method to treat a fibre sensor surface to immobilize antibody to selectively detect human chorionic gonadotropin, where a world record detection limit of 0.0001 mIU/mL has been achieved (Biosens Bioelectr, 145, 2019). One of the key challenges for fibre biosensor is the selectivity and compatibility of the thin film to the biochemical target. BC pellicle is a nature material which has good compatibility to biochemical material. By properly design molecule composition and microstructure, the BC film will have excellent specificity to target biochemical material and thus is an ideal functional material to fibre optic biosensor.

The aim of this project is to explore the application of BC as a thin film to coat on an optical fibre to develop novel high sensitivity optical fibre biosensor for real time monitoring of catalytic reactions.

Four objectives will be carried out: 1) developing a ultrahigh sensitivity optical fibre transducer with optimum design of microstructure profile, taper diameter, and functionalization thickness; 2) synthesizing BC membranes which incorporate appropriate enzymes molecules for enzymatic reaction monitor; 3) immobilizing BC film on the fibre transducer array with controlled thickness and enhanced adhesion to the fibre surface; 4) designing and validating the prototype BC coated fibre sensing system for the catalytic reaction. The success of the proposed research will deliver a novel functionalization material for a ultrahigh sensitivity fibre optic biosensor.  

The principal supervisor for this project is Associate Professor Qiang Wu. 

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

·      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

·      Academically strong candidates are sought who have BSc or Masters Degree in Applied Physics or Optics, Applied Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Biochemical Engineering or a closely related discipline.

·      Experience in optoelectronics, optical sensing or nanomaterial synthesis is desirable.

·      Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

·      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.


For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. MRDF22/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes (https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/studentships/rdf) which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


1. Ling Chen, Bin Liu, Juan Liu, Jinhui Yuan, Hau Ping Chan, Tao Wu, Mengyu Wang, Sheng-Peng Wan, Xing-Dao He, and Qiang Wu, “U-Shape Panda Polarization-Maintaining Microfiber Sensor Coated With Graphene Oxide for Relative Humidity Measurement”, Journal of Lightwave Technology, Vol. 39, no. 19, pp. 6308-6314, 2021
2. Binghui Li, Hau Ping Chan, Kazi Tanvir Ahmmed, Liangjun He, Shuyan Zhu, Qiang Wu, “A high sensitivity magnetic sensor based on the evanescent scattering by a magnetorheological film”, Optics Letters, vol. 45, no. 24, 6643-6646, 2020
3. Tao Zhou, Tao Wu, Qiang Wu, Weidong Chen, Mingwei Wu, Chenwen Ye, Xingdao He, “Real-Time Monitoring of 13C- and 18O-Isotopes of Human Breath CO2 Using a Mid-Infrared Hollow Waveguide Gas Sensor”, Analytical Chemistry, vol. 92, no. 19, pp. 12943-12949, 2020
4. Ling Chen, Yuan-Kui Leng, Bin Liu, Juan Liu, Sheng-Peng Wan, Tao Wu, Jinhui Yuan, Liyang Shao, Gu Guoqiang, Yong Qing Fu, Hengyi Xu, Yonghua Xiong, Xing-Dao He, Qiang Wu, “Ultrahigh-sensitivity label-free optical fiber biosensor based on a tapered singlemode-no core-singlemode coupler for Staphylococcus aureus detection”, Sensors and Actuator B: Chemical, vol. 320, pp. 128283, 2020.
5. Xiaokang Lian, Qiang Wu, Gerald Farrell and Yuliya Semenova, “High-sensitivity temperature sensor based on anti-resonance in high-index polymer-coated optical fiber interferometers”, Optics Letters, vol. 45, no. 19, pp. 5385-5388, 2020
6. Rahul Kumar, Yuankui Leng, Bin Liu, Jun Zhou, Liyang Shao, Jinhui Yuan, Xinyu Fan, Shengpeng Wan, Tao Wu, Juan Liu, Richard Binns, Yong Qing Fu, Wai Pang Ng, Gerald Farrell, Yuliya Semenova, Hengyi Xu, Yonghua Xiong, Xingdao He and Qiang Wu, “Ultrasensitive biosensor based on magnetic microspheres enhanced microfiber interferometer”, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, vol. 145, pp. 111563, 2019
7. Dejun Liu, Fengzi Ling, Rahul Kumar, Arun Kumar Mallik, Ke Tian, Changyu Shen, Gerald Farrell, Yuliya Semenova, Qiang Wu, Pengfei Wang, “Sub-micrometer resolution liquid level sensor based on hollow core fiber structure”, Optics Letters, vol. 44, no. 8, pp. 2125-2128, 2019
8. Xiaokang Lian, Qiang Wu, Gerald Farrell, Changyu Shen, Youqiao Ma, Yuliya Semenova, “Discrete Self-Imaging in Small-Core Optical Fiber Interferometers”, Journal of Lightwave Technology, vol. 37, no. 9, pp. 1873-1884, 2019
9. Dejun Liu, Rahul Kumar, Fangfang Wei, Wei Han, Arun Kumar Mallik, Jinhui Yuan, Shengpeng Wan, Xingdao He, Zhe Kang, Feng Li, Chongxiu Yu, Gerald Farrell, Yuliya Semenova and Qiang Wu, “High sensitivity optical fiber sensors for simultaneous measurement of methanol and ethanol”, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, vol. 271, 15 October, pp. 1-8, 2018
10. Peng Wang, Qiang Wu, Fuyan Wang, Yaping Zhang, Liying Tong, Tao Jiang, Chenjie Gu, Shuiping Huang, Hongxi Wang, Shizhong Bu & Jun Zhou, “Evaluating cellular uptake of gold nanoparticles in HL-7702 and HepG2 cells for plasmonic photothermal therapy”, Nanomedicine (Future Medicine), vol. 13, no. 18, pp. 2245-2259, Oct. 2018
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