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Bioplastic from Sustainable Feedstock – Tackling the Plastic Challenge

Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

Sheffield United Kingdom Biochemistry Bioengineering Biotechnology Chemical Engineering Genetic Engineering Microbiology Molecular Biology

About the Project

Plastic is used in many applications, including packaging, construction material, parts in the automotive, biomedical devices and electronic components. While it greatly facilitates our everyday life, current plastic production faces significant challenges, such as the ongoing depletion of fossil resources and the growing piles of non-degradable plastics waste. More sustainable ways of producing and consuming plastic is urgently required. Switching from petrol-based plastics to bioplastic from renewable resources is a promising strategy to address this global challenge.

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) is a polymeric microbial storage material produced by numerous prokaryotes. PHA-based bioplastics is biodegradable and can substitute many of the major plastics because of its large variety. One of Nature’s most successful PHA producers is Cupriavidus necator, a soil bacterium that accumulates polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) up to 90% of its cell dry mass. We have previously developed synthetic biology tools and engineered this bacterium for PHA production from industrial waste.

In this project, the student will work in a team to (1) investigate the use of different bacterial strains for PHA production, (2) improve strain performance using methods of synthetic biology and (3) develop bioprocesses for PHA production from sustainable feedstock.

This project is in the important and quickly developing field of bioplastic. Successful candidate will receive training in microbiology, molecular biology, synthetic biology and strain engineering. He/she will join the multi-disciplinary research environment in The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and benefit from the Doctoral Development Programme designed to develop specialist and transferable skills. 

A full-funded project (fees and stipend) for UK candidates to start in September 2021. Application deadline: 1st June 2021.


Candidates should hold either a first or 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in chemical engineering, biochemical engineering, biotechnology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology or related disciplines. If English is not your first language then you must have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component, or equivalent. Please see this web link for further information:
Applications can be submitted here:

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