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Creating novel sophorolipid structures via biological transformation


   Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science

   Wednesday, August 31, 2022  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This collaborative PhD project with Holiferm Limited will investigate the post fermentation transformation of the sophorolipid biosurfactant molecule, generating novel structures with interesting and useful properties.

Sophorolipid biosurfactants are naturally occurring amphiphiles with a range of unique properties including biodegradability and tolerance of a wide range of temperature and pH. These properties have facilitated the commercialisation of these biosurfactants by a number of companies in recent years, in a range of personal care, home care and laundry care applications. There is further significant interest in molecules produced from industrial biotechnology routes and the use of biosurfactants such as sophorolipids as bulk chemicals, in particular for bioremediation and enhanced oil recovery, though the current cost of production is currently prohibitive.

This PhD project will investigate various chemical and biochemical methods for post fermentation modification of sophorolipid biosurfactants, with a view to producing new structures with a range of novel properties, opening up a range of potential applications in formulated products. The proposed project will deliver new production routes for modified sophorolipids, from a non-GMO origin, giving potential new functionality and hence additional market applications. The research will involve investigation of the post fermentation modification of sophorolipids to give new molecular structures, the production of a fully characterised library of alternative and novel sophorolipid molecules and their functionality. This will be followed by formulation testing and evaluation of the techno-economic and environmental sustainability performance of the modified sophorolipids.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree Chemical Engineering or a related discipline.

Application Information

Information about the application process and a link to the online application form can be found at https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/admissions/how-to-apply/.

You MUST make contact with the lead project supervisor before submitting an application.

To apply for this programme, select PhD Chemical Engineering and then PhD Biochemical and Bioprocess Engineering. When completing the application include the name of the lead project supervisor as the potential supervisor.

Enquiries about this project can be sent to Dr Winterburn -  as the lead project supervisor. The Admissions team in Chemical Engineering can be contacted at  with any queries you may have regarding the application process.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 


Funding Notes

This is a 3.5-year PhD starting in September 2022. Collaboration with Holiferm Limited (View Website), providing in kind research support (facility access) and technical support from R&D team. No specific funding allocated, available for self-funded students and funding is potentially available through President’s Doctoral Scholar award (PDS) View Website.

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