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Biological recovery of metals from lithium ion batteries (LIBs) and synthesis of nanoparticles

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Horsfall
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The resource efficiency Knowledge Transfer Network estimated that world-wide mining activities are responsible for 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, consume limited fossil fuel resources and produce other damaging ’greenhouse gases’, recovery of metals would reduce the burden on mining and its environmental impact. The development of a bioprocess for the recovery of metals, which capitalises on the unique selectivity and sensitivity of biology, is envisaged to be greener than physical and chemical recovery methods. Furthermore, the ability to manipulate bacteria in combination with their ability to synthesise nanoparticles could provide access to a host of novel nanoparticles with new properties and unlimited potential applications.

Linked to our work in ReLiB, one of the Faraday Institution’s Fast Start Projects, we propose to design and engineer bacteria to recover metals from spent lithium ion batteries (LiBs) once reuse is no longer possible. Recovering and recycling metals from LiBs is a must in order to ensure the supply of raw materials to meet the high demand of batteries and to minimise the volume of hazardous waste generated by spent LiBs. By using the new tools and techniques provided by advances in biology we will engineer microbes with the ability to selectively recover metals in the form of high value nanoparticles adding value to the recovery process.

In this PhD project the student will examine native bacterial systems for metal resistance, their potential for genetic manipulation and opportunities for their application. This may involve the characterisation of promoters and ribosomal binding sites with reporter genes, the optimisation of proteins in the metal nanoparticle synthesis pathway and investigation of the resultant effects on the metal resistance exhibited by the organism. The student will receive training in molecular biology, biochemistry and nanotechnology, with an emphasis on synthetic biology approaches for characterising expression levels. The work in this project will provide the necessary tools and knowledge needed to improve upon current metal biorecovery yields.

The project will require collaboration with a number of scientists and engineers at other UK Universities, and the student will be benefit from the additional training opportunities this provides.

Lab website:
The Faraday Institution website

Funding Notes

The “Apply online” button on this page will take you to our Online Application checklist. Please complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process.

If you would like us to consider you for one of our scholarships you must apply by 12 noon on 13 December 2018 at the latest.


[1] Pantidos N, Edmundson MC, and Horsfall LE. (2018) Room-temperature bio-production, isolation and anti-microbial properties of stable elemental copper nanoparticles. New Biotechnology 40(Pt B): 275-281.
[2] Capeness, M J, M C Edmundson, and L E Horsfall (2015). Nickel and Platinum Group Metal Nanoparticle Production by Desulfovibrio Alaskensis G20.New Biotechnology 32 (6) 727–731.
[3] Pollmann, Katrin, Sabine Kutschke, Sabine Matys, Johannes Raff, Gregor Hlawacek, and Franziska L. Lederer. (2018) Bio-Recycling of Metals: Recycling of Technical Products Using Biological Applications. Biotechnology Advances (36) 1048-1062

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

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

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