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

  • Full or part time
    Dr L Horsfall
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 10, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Horsfall group is engineering bacteria to recover metals from spent lithium ion batteries (LiBs) once reuse is no longer possible. 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 nanoparticles adding value to the recovery process. Desulfovibrio alaskensis can recover a variety of metals through the production of nanoparticles but it cannot discriminate between Co and Ni, both of which are likely to be present in battery leachates. Therefore, this PhD project will investigate the selective recovery of Ni through engineering of D. alaskensis. This project will also investigate the recovery of two other important metals in LiBs, Al and Li, using Pseudomonas species. Furthermore, the elemental composition and physicochemical properties of biogenic nanoparticles are known to differ depending on the bacterial species and conditions used. Thus, the production of biogenic Ni, Li and Al nanoparticles will be studied under varying factors (e.g. aerobic/anaerobic, media composition, temperature).
This project will examine native bacterial metal resistance systems, 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 identification of relevant molecules for the selective recovery of Ni, Al and Li will contribute to the development of a of bio-based system for the recovery of metals. The project offers training in molecular biology, synthetic biology, biochemistry and nanotechnology. The work in this project will provide the necessary tools and knowledge needed to improve upon current metal biorecovery yields.

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Funding Notes

This work is funded by the Faraday Institution for a duration of 4 years and is associated with the recycling and reuse project ReLiB, Recycling of Li-Ion Batteries. The Faraday Institution Cluster PhD students receive an enhanced stipend above the standard EPSRC offer. The total annual stipend is approximately £20,000 plus an additional £7,000 annually to cover training and travel costs. Recipients will have access to multiple networking opportunities, industry visits, mentorship, internships, as well as quality experiences that will further develop knowledge, skills, and aspirations.


1) Cueva ME, Horsfall LE. The contribution of microbially produced nanoparticles to sustainable development goals. Microb Biotechnol. 2017 Sep;10(5):1212-1215
2) Capeness MJ, Edmundson MC, Horsfall LE. Nickel and platinum group metal nanoparticle production by Desulfovibrio alaskensis G20. N Biotechnol. 2015 Dec 25;32(6):727-31.
3) Capeness M, Imrie L, Muhlbauer LF, Le Bihan T, E Horsfall LE. Shotgun proteomics analysis of nanoparticle-synthesising Desulfovibrio alaskensis in response to platinum and palladium. bioRxiv 565036;

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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