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Biochemical and microbial interactions with advanced coatings and sealants in industrial biotechology applications

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, August 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisor: Prof Sonia Heaven
Co-supervisor Dr Yue Zhang

Project description

Industrial and environmental biotechnology is a rapidly developing field that covers both well-established sectors such as anaerobic digestion and wastewater treatment, and innovative processes needed to underpin the circular bioeconomy. Advances in materials science are delivering new coatings and sealants for the containment solutions required for these processes. The research challenge is to understand how these may interact with the physical and biochemical conditions encountered in new applications and markets.

The first stage of the research will involve working with a defined range of products and materials, testing them to see their performance and endeavouring to determine key factors affecting durability and life expectancy. One aim will be to develop a suite of testing approaches that in future could become the basis for industry-wide standards.

The work builds on Southampton’s extensive expertise in both anaerobic digestion and materials testing, and in the first instance conditions found in anaerobic digestion plants will be taken as a model system for testing new ideas. In normal operation the conditions in a digester are relatively stable, with a low redox potential and neutral pH; but if the process becomes unstable then dynamic changes in the physico-chemical characteristics of the reactor contents can occur, resulting in pH shifts, changes in alkalinity, gas composition and accumulation of intermediate reactants. Depending on the substrate, reactor contents may be abrasive, and a range of temperature regimes may occur across the process chain from heat exchangers to storage tanks. Process microbiology will also play a role, including the physical form of biomass (dispersed organisms, flocs, granules, biofilms etc). A particular feature is thus the need to bring together different disciplines, including knowledge of the chemical and microbiological characteristics of these systems with advanced materials properties and testing methods. The research will move on to look at novel materials and testing methodologies under a range of conditions relevant to future applications in the biotechology sector.

Southampton hosts the National Biofilms Innovation Centre and opportunities for training and collaboration will be sought where appropriate. The project also offers the opportunity to work closely with an industrial partner who has a world-leading reputation for quality and innovation in its products and a strong track record of environmentally-responsible manufacturing.

Entry Requirements
A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 August 2020 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,009 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online here selecting “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Sonia Heavan under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include:
Research Proposal
Curriculum Vitae
Two reference letters
Degree Transcripts to date
Apply online:

For further information please contact:

How good is research at University of Southampton in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 192.23

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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