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(BBSRC DTP) Exploiting plant diversity to make a new biomaterials

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Turner
    Prof V Allan
    Prof S Flitsch
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

It is clear that there is now enormous pressure to develop much better replacements for plastics synthesised from fossil fuels. In addition to the problems associated with using fossil fuels and in particular their role in global warming, it is now apparent that the fact that many of these plastics to grow very slowly and are accumulating in landfill sites and is within our oceans means that it is now pressing to develop more sustainable polymers that do not adds to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and are also biodegradable. One possibility is to develop a novel plastics based on polymers from plants. Cellulose is a polymer of glucose with remarkable structural properties means it is the world’s most abundant biopolymer. Cellulose from higher plants is an abundant source of renewable material that can be used as a source of raw material for chemical and fuel production, or for generating novel biomaterials.

What gives cellulose its remarkable structural properties is the way in which a large enzyme complex is able to simultaneously make around 18 chains as it moves through the plasma membrane. These chains then bond together to form the microfibril that is both strong and resistance to chemical breakdown. Our research has revealed a lot of information on how cellulose is synthesised in higher plants and we have performed detailed analysis of the catalytic subunits of the cellulose synthase complex. The availability of an increasingly large number of plant genome sequences, that now covers everything from higher plants make it clear that there is enormous diversity in the way in which plants make cellulose.Understand the diversity in the way in which cellulose by different plant species would help to understand how to make different forms of cellulose and would unlock the potential of cellulose to form the basis of a new generation of plant-based polymers. Initially the project will focus on expressing from lower plants including mosses and determining what is needed to get these genes to make cellulose in model plant such as Arabidopsis. This would be the first step in understanding how we are able to get crop plants to make a much larger range of different kinds of cellulose that could be tested for their ability to make a new generation of biomaterials.

Turner lab

Flitsch lab

Allan lab

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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