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From waste to sustainable products: Structural characterization of polysaccharides and by-products extracted after processing agricultural crops

Faculty of Biological Sciences

Leeds United Kingdom Structural Biology

About the Project

Crop-harvest and industrial processes generate significant amount of plant waste. Novel processes for extracting cellulose and other by-products from a range of agricultural wastes are in development but the heterogeneity of the agricultural sources and lack of precise methodologies for analysing the waste products pose great challenges in this quest. We are looking for an enthusiastic, creative and science- passionate individual motivated to develop methodologies for the characterization of diverse agricultural and industrial waste in collaboration with our industrial partner. This information will identify the processing required and determine its suitability to develop commercially viable products. The project will be developed in collaboration with Futamura UK Ltd. Futamura is the world’s largest producer of cellulosic films and has the world’s leading and first home compostable filmic product,

NatureFlex™ (  The student will engage with the industrial partner from the start and identify how the research addresses the commercial needs. They will be embedded into a vibrant interdisciplinary community at Leeds closely working with students and postdoctoral researchers at the Centre for Plant Science, the Astbury Centre for Structural Biology and the Bragg Centre for Material Research. They will benefit from state-of the –art instrumentation and expertise existing at Leeds including Raman, confocal and electron-microscopes, Nanowizard 4 AFM-Picoquant FLIM, solid state 13C NMR and others. Results from the project will contribute to reduce our environmental footprint, promote the circular economy and global sustainability. It will advance knowledge on plant cell walls that can be applied to support growth in UK sustainable biomaterial sector by opening doors to new innovations based on the properties of wall polymers. 

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC CASE Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of £15,285 (currently for session 2020/21) for 3.5 years.
This opportunity is open to all applicants, with a small number of awards for Non-UK applicants limited by UKRI to 1. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC CASE Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.
The UKCISA website will be updated in due course with information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals starting from September/October 2021.


Abou-Saleh, Hernandez-Gomez, Amsbury, et al, Benitez-Alfonso (2018). Interactions between callose and cellulose revealed through the analysis of biopolymer mixtures. Nature Commun, 9(1):4538.

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