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Graphene-enhanced bioplastics for sustainable packaging applications


   Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science

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  Prof Konstantinos Theodoropoulos  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

About the Project

This multidisciplinary project with industrial relevance and support, aims to develop novel technologies, for the development of biodegradable plastics – Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) with enhanced properties through the use of graphene in various forms.  

We will exploit fermentation at different scales and modes (batch/fed-batch) for PHA bioproduction from sustainable biomass sources as well as the subsequent efficient bioproduction of the actual biopolymers along with their functionalisation through the use of graphene and graphene-based materials (e.g. graphene oxide, and graphene nanotubes). The resulting enhanced mechanical properties of the produced biomaterials will be assessed, as well as the economic potential of the proposed combination of methodologies. 

The project will focus on sustainable carbon resources, such as e.g. biorefinery crude glycerol, flue gases etc. and novel electrochemical synthesis routes for the graphene oxides.  

An exciting combination of both advanced experimental and computational studies is envisaged: Our previous work on batch fermentation-based production of PHB, as well as our collaborators’ expertise on graphene-based products will provide effective starting points for this project. Computational work will involve the construction of reactor simulators in conjunction with advanced optimisation techniques in order to obtain optimal bioreactor configurations addressing important issues such as biomass/product separation, as well as efficient extraction techniques. 

The project has significant industrial interest and backing, and the successful candidate is expected to work closely with the industrial sponsors, hence excellent communication skills are essential.   

Research will be supervised primarily by Prof. Constantinos Theodoropoulos.  The successful candidate will have the opportunity to combine industrial biotechnology with graphene technology skills in a genuinely multi-disciplinary project and, as mentioned above, to perform research on the computational and the experimental front. 

Wea re looking for excellent candidates who should ideally have an MSc and/or a 1st class BSc in Chemical Engineering or a related field such as Biotechnology, Chemistry, Physical Chemistry etc. and should have computational modelling experience and/or relevant experimental experience. 

Successful candidates will be enrolled in the 3.5-year Ph.D. program of the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science. 

See http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/k.theodoropoulos/publications for a list of relevant publications from the Theodoropoulos lab. 

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).

All appointments are made on merit.



References

1. Cristina Perez Rivero, Chenhao Sun, Constantinos Theodoropoulos, Colin Webb. Building a predictive model for PHB production from glycerol (2015) Biochemical engineering journal. 116, 113-121.
2. Chenhao Sun, Cristina Perez-Rivero, Colin Webb, Constantinos Theodoropoulos, Dynamic Metabolic Analysis of Cupriavidus necator DSM545 Producing Poly (3-hydroxybutyric acid) from Glycerol (2020) Processes 8(6) 657.
3. J. Chen M. Perez-Page Z. Ji Z. Zhang Z. Guo S. Holmes. One step electrochemical exfoliation of natural graphite flakes into graphene oxide for polybenzimidazole composite membranes giving enhanced performance in high temperature fuel cells
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