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Microalgal carbon sequestration

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

Project Description


The increasing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere is a major environmental crisis that is in immediate need of innovative solutions. Microalgae are photosynthetic organisms that can be employed to develop processes that can sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, as well as from point sources emitting CO2 in significant amounts, such as power plants. Although well recognised conceptually, implementable solutions require appropriate techno-economic feasibility to tie CO2 sequestration with value-addition to the sequestered carbon and/or biomass. A proper understanding of carbon supply and uptake by microalgae, as well as its routing to products of interest is required to enable solutions that are implementable. Microalgal species display differences in their carbon uptake capacity and in diverting the carbon to products of value. The challenge is in developing a better understanding of carbon uptake and engineering supply solutions that maximise CO2 sequestration to be of value to contribute to the solution matrix.
The project will build on our earlier work and address (a) the challenges of developing an understanding of carbon uptake by microalgae from different industrial sectors, and (b) the challenges of utilising the sequestered carbon towards developing sustainable bioprocesses. The emphasis will be on developing a metabolic insight into carbon uptake and developing engineering strategies combined with microalgae metabolism and physiology towards accumulation of products of value and development of sustainable bioprocesses.

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 biochemical pathway analysis. The successful applicant will develop multidisciplinary skills in microalgae physiology, engineering and biochemistry. 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 bioprocesses for industrial manufacturing, renewable energy, food/feed sectors. Potential employers include several carbon intensive industries, as well as bio-based industries interested in developing sustainable solutions.

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/Biochemistry). A strong undergraduate background in biochemistry or chemical/biochemical/environmental engineering, with an interest in sustainable biomanufacturing, environmental engineering, microalgae physiology 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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