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Microfibre release from textiles leading to environmental pollution (Ref: SF20/APP/SHERIDAN)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

About the Project

Textile production is one of the world’s major polluters, and consumes vast water and energy resources. Fibre content of garments has been trending away from natural fibres towards synthetic fibres such as polyester and polyamide. This is only set to rise with the growth of the fast fashion business model that has evidenced a dramatic increase in the production, consumption and disposal of mass volume, cheap garments often made from synthetic fibres. In the UK, consumption levels are higher than any other country in Europe at 26.7kg per capita (Commons Select Committee, 2018). As garments shed microfibres during laundering, marine pollution by synthetic fibres has been recognised as a major environmental challenge, and new garments release particularly high levels of fibres in the first few washes. Moreover, vast quantities are shed through the general use, wear or handling of textile products.

There is a significant opportunity to reduce all these issues by increasing our understanding of the mechanisms that lead to generation of microfibres. This will result in longer lasting clothing, less microfiber pollution and accelerate a shift away from fast fashion to better quality garments, all with significant reductions in environmental impact. WRAP estimates that a 9-month extension in the active lifetime of clothing translates into a 20-30% reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints. Determining the key drivers that influence microfibre release will provide the fundamental knowledge and understanding needed to reduce or prevent microfibre pollution.

We are looking for a student who is motivated, independent and a problem solver. This is a multi-disciplinary project with work involve a range of microscopic, physical and chemical testing procedures and is suitable for a student with a background in materials science, textile science, analytical chemistry or environmental science.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Kelly Sheridan ()

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Palmer, R., Sheridan, K.J., Puckett, J., Richardson, N. & Low, W. (2017) An investigation into secondary transfer – The transfer of textile fibres to seats. Science & Justice, 278, p334-337

Palmer, R., Burnett, E., Luff, N., Wagner, C., Stinga, G., Carney, C., Sheridan, K, (2015). The prevalence of two commonly encountered synthetic target fibres within a large urban environment. Science & Justice, 55, p103–106.

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