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Characterisation of micro- and nano-plastics in complex systems

Department of Materials Engineering

About the Project

Plastics are ubiquitous and there is an urgent need to better manage their life cycle from production to environmental fate. Recent interest has focussed on very small (micro and nano) plastics, including their detection in and potential deleterious impact on the environment. To better understand the life cycle of polymer materials from their creation through, use, disposal and breakdown a team of researchers supporting by collaborators from within industry, environmental agency and charities are creating a research centre at Loughborough University. The Plastrax research group (link below) will develop new materials, analytical techniques and models to characterise and track plastic particles in the environment as well as study the effect of materials on organisms. 

This research project is one of five positions starting in Oct 2021, the cohort will work together as a diverse and interdisciplinary team. Students in the group will participate in research with a direct real-world impact through collaboration with industrial and environmental partners. Through regular group meetings, they will also get a broad multidisciplinary understanding of this critical research area, the chance to work on cutting edge research across five different labs.  

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014). In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College.

Find out more at:

Full Project Detail:

The interaction of nanoplastics with biological systems is associated with their physical and chemical features, for instance, fibres with high aspect ratios and nanoparticles present higher risks. Real life scenarios often see microplastics and nanoplastics occurring in extremely complex systems, which include organics, polymers and inorganic metal and minerals in all kinds of forms. Standard analysis methods for nanoscale materials characterisation, such as electron microscopy or dynamic light-scattering techniques, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy etc, will be applied. Additional sample preparation and data interpretation will be required by considering the nature of plastic particles. A solution for efficient plastic particles characterisation will be proposed to fill this technology gap by combining relevant instruments and expertise at Materials, Chemistry and Mathematics Departments.

Entry requirements:

We are looking for enthusiastic, committed students who enjoy working as part of a team and doing research with an impact. Applicants for this project should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a Chemistry, Physics, or Materials Science or engineering subject. Experience in materials characterisation and image processing will be an advantage but is not essential.

How to apply:

All applications should be made online at  Under programme, select Materials.

Please quote reference: ZZ/MP-CDT/2021

Funding Notes

The studentship is for 3 years and provides a tax-free stipend of £15,285 per annum for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK rate. International (including EU) students may apply however the total value of the studentship will cover the International Tuition Fee Only.

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