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[EPSRC iCASE] Biotechnological production of metal nanoparticles for catalysis

Project Description

Nanomaterials, with their high surface areas and unique properties are revolutionising many areas of science and technology. The microbial production of metallic nanomaterials by biotechnological routes has been a focus of research in SEES, Manchester for more than a decade, with wide commercial potential has been demonstrated. The bacterial systems developed are scalable, tunable and amenable to genetic manipulation, and can therefore be used to host recombinant enzymes, producing novel “biometallic catalysts”. Development of these metal/enzymatic catalysts has the potential to deliver new routes to novel or better catalysts, including from waste materials or solutions (revalorising these waste streams). This project will examine the use of harmless subsurface metal-reducing bacteria to produce catalytically active nanoparticles from a range of metals and their bimetallic combinations. A cross-disciplinary approach will be adopted, including microbiological manipulations combined with high quality nanomaterial characterisation. The focus of activities with the iCASE partner JM will include examination of the products as catalysts but other possible applications of the technology will be considered as the project progresses. The student will therefore gain practical knowledge of the use of bacteria to produce nanoparticles, the chemistry of a number of d-block metals, techniques used to characterise nanomaterials, and heterogeneous catalysis.

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) at the University of Manchester supports cross-disciplinary education and research in the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a staff of more than 300, SEES offers a vibrant postgraduate research environment, with approximately 200 registered PhD students. This PhD will be based within the Geomicrobiology Group, which focuses on the environmental impact of microbial processes in a wide range of natural and engineered systems. The group is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, consisting of 30+ researchers spanning the geo and biosciences, and benefitting from state of the art laboratories in the Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Sciences (WRC: Regular in-house training covers all the major techniques available within the WRC laboratories, including biomineral characterisation, imaging, spectroscopy, anaerobic microbiology and molecular ecology (including DNA sequencing and analysis). The student will also benefit from the excellent infrastructure in the School of Materials, as well as interactions with staff at JM’s corporate research centre in Sonning Common including catalysis, with opportunities for catalyst testing and use of specialised characterisation instrumentation.

This project would be well suited for candidates with an interest in multidisciplinary science and a strong background (BSc or MSc) in biotechnology, materials science, chemistry or related subjects. The training given will prepare the student for a career in academia or industry.


Kimber, R,L., Lewis, E.A., Parmeggiani, F., Smith, K., Bagshaw, H. Starborg, T., Joshi, N., Figueroa, A.I., van der Laan, G., Cibin, G., Gianolio, D., Haigh, S.J., Pattrick, R.A.D., Turner, N.J. and Lloyd, J.R. (2018) Biosynthesis and Characterization of Copper Nanoparticles Using Shewanella oneidensis: Application for Click Chemistry. Small 2018, 1703145 DOI: 10.1002/smll.201703145

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

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

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