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Investigating the Causal Biological Effects on Microbial Induced Corrosion (MIC) Occurring Within Components of Advanced Maritime Systems

Department of Materials

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Dr B Connolly Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a full time PhD studentship in the Department of Materials at the University of Manchester. The project is supported by BAE Systems, who will provide both industrial supervision, access to research facilities and secondments during the studentship. Academic supervision for this project will be provided jointly by the University of Manchester (in the area of corrosion) and by Sheffield Hallam University (in the area of biochemistry). The studentship will be based in Manchester but access with be available to research facilities at both sites.

The ocean covers about 70% of the earth’s surface area and supports 90% of freight transportation in world trade. As a result, the Marine industry has become one of the most important pillars supporting economic development. However, the marine environment is an extremely harsh corrosive environment for metals and other structural materials used in the ocean industry. Corrosion of materials is one of the main reasons for destruction and abandonment of infrastructure and industrial equipment serving in this environment. In fact it has been recognized that corrosion losses exceed the total loss of all other nature disasters. Worldwide, the annual loss caused by corrosion is about 3–5% of GDP. In the marine environment, seawater itself is an electrolyte with high corrosiveness. In addition, the ocean environment is complicated as marine organisms will change local environments which will exacerbate material degradation. Previous work has found that microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) and marine bio-fouling are the two main mechanisms of marine corrosion in this complicated marine environment. In order to use marine resources efficiently, it is necessary to study the mechanism of material corrosion in marine environments and to develop better methods for mitigation and prevention.

Previous research indicates that both MIC and marine bio-fouling are closely related biofilm formation on material surfaces by the marine microorganisms. As a result, to prevent the occurrence of MIC and bio-fouling, it is important to prevent the adhesion and formation of the biofilms and/or control the growth of the microorganisms in biofilms. The traditional method of using chemical bactericide or antifoulant faces the problems of pollution and microorganism resistance. New approaches are currently being developed applying new materials and technologies to cooperate with traditional chemicals to achieve better and longer effects with lower environment pollution through synergistic actions.

MIC is the corrosion of metal materials which is accelerated directly by the life activities of microorganisms or indirectly by their metabolites. A large part of the economic losses in the marine industry are caused by MIC. According to statistics, MIC accounts for about 20% of the total economic losses. MIC is often produced by a mixture of anaerobic sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and aerobic iron-oxidizing bacteria (IOB). Under actual working conditions, these two micro-organisms accelerate the corrosion of materials through synergistic actions. IOB consumes oxygen in the medium to create an appropriate growth environment for anaerobic SRB and then promote the corrosion of the matrix by SRB. During this process, SRB and IOB cooperate together to form biofilms on metal surfaces which are usually composed of sessile cells, extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and corrosion products from these two bacteria. The biofilm plays a very important role in MIC and the development of biofilm theory and analytical techniques have led up to a better understanding of the whole process of MIC. Many studies have found that the composition of biofilms is complex, leading to complicated effects on the corrosion of materials with biofilms formed in different periods having different effects on the corrosion.

Key to future development in preventing marine MIC and bio-fouling is to find methods and materials which have high efficiency, long service life, easy implement process, low cost and environment friendly application under the complicated marine environment. This research programme will look to provide insight into the integration and synergistic action of different materials and technologies that will drive marine anti-corrosion and anti-fouling in the future.

For additional queries about this project, please contact Dr Brian Connolly via email ([Email Address Removed]).

The successful applicant must hold a first degree (minimum upper second class) in Materials Science, Physics, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or related discipline. A Master’s level qualification is desirable but not essential.

Funding Notes

This project is funded through the prestigious EPSRC Industrial CASE award programme. Successful applicants will receive an annual tax free stipend plus payment of their full time home/EU tuition fees for a period of 48 months. The studentship will be based at the University of Manchester but will be co-supervised by the Sheffield Hallam University. Access to research facilities as well as the possibility of a limited secondment will be provided by the industrial sponsor (BAE Systems).

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