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Microalgal bioplastics

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 29, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Single use plastic is a major environmental concern that is urgently in need of innovative solutions. Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms that can be employed to develop processes that are environmentally sustainable. This includes reduced resource consumption and CO2 generation, and energy efficient operations with maximised product outputs. Plastics are currently sourced from fossil derived petroleum that is environmentally unsustainable. Microalgal routes to the manufacture of simple chemical precursors that enable the synthesis of bioplastics offer sustainable alternatives. These plastics can also be synthesised in a way to ensure biodegradability, leaving little trace in the environment. Microalgae offer a means of fixing atmospheric CO2, thus providing realistic reduction of carbon emissions in the production of bioplastics.

The project will build on our earlier work and address the challenges of developing microalgae based bioprocesses for the sustainable manufacture of bioplastics. The emphasis will be on developing engineering strategies and process economics enabled through an understanding of microalgae metabolism and physiology towards accumulation and synthesis of bioplastic precursors.

The student will have the opportunity to apply biochemical engineering principles and will get training in the cultivation of microalgae in submerged bioprocesses, under batch and continuous culture conditions. The candidate will also gain expertise in materials engineering. The successful applicant will develop multidisciplinary skills in microalgae physiology and materials engineering. The student will be familiarised with Good Laboratory Practice regulations, COSHH, research ethics, confidentiality and development of generic transferable skills including IT, critical evaluation, problem solving, data collection and analysis, team working, time management, written and communications skills will be ensured. The student will also get a chance to interact with research members of the ChELSI Institute at the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering and the wider microalgae research community within and outside Sheffield, in addition to relevant industries.

The project will provide the necessary interdisciplinary skills for the student to pursue research and development in the sustainable use of materials for manufacturing and renewable energy sectors, as example sectors. Potential employers include the emerging and futuristic bio-based industry.

All the methodology and instrumentation required to achieve the objectives of the proposal are available in the applicant’s laboratory and through University-wide facilities and these will be available for the student during the duration of the project.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a first or upper second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline ((Bio-)Chemical/Environmental Engineering or Bioscience/Microbiology/Material science). A strong undergraduate background in material science or chemical/biochemical engineering, with an interest in sustainable biomanufacturing, microalgae physiology, and/or material science is desired. The applicant should have been educated to degree level through the medium of English or have IELTS 7 or equivalent.

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