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MicroFuelPro: Microbial fuel development framework using synthetic biology for next generation drop-in renewable fuel production (Ref: RENU20/EE/MPEE/AZIMOV)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr U Azimov
    Dr J Munoz
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU)is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities, for example in business, innovation and internationalisation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training. The start date is 1st October 2020.

​The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to experimentally produce novel microbial fuels from organic waste and wastewater to be designed in order to improve the performance of internal combustion engines for future low-carbon hybrid powertrains and range extenders of light- and heavy-duty vehicles. Biotechnological interventions can make major advances in strain improvement for the commercial scale production of microbial fuels. Various strategies will be explored to increase lipid accumulation and its quality through the regulation of key enzymes involved in lipid production, by blocking the related pathways and genes, enabling high cell biomass under nutrient-deprived conditions and other environmental stresses, and controlling the upstream regulators of targets, the transcription factors, and microRNAs. We will explore the opportunities emerging from the current progress in the application of genome editing in microorganisms for accelerating the strain improvement program.

Design properties, property targets, and acceptable tolerances on meeting the required microbial fuel physical and chemical properties will be established. NMR and GCMS spectroscopies will be used to quantify the compositional characteristics of each target microbial fuel. The new fuel’s per-atom data will be applied to better correlate with engine emission characteristics because of better resolution of the carbon bond types within each molecule.

​The main design properties selected for this study will be fuel composition, ignition quality, volatility, and density. These are selected in an attempt to match the engine in-cylinder vaporization, mixing, and combustion processes of the target fuel, with the understanding that there is no guarantee that matching these design properties will produce identical engine emissions or performance. Other design properties such as surrogate fuel cost, mean molecular weight, C/H ratio, lower heating value, and threshold sooting index will also be analysed.

This project is supervised by Dr Ulugbek Azimov. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed].

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 1st Class (Hons) or 2:1; or a Masters (preference for Merit or above) in an appropriate subject area.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

The application closing date is 11 May 2020 and interviews will take place in late May/early June. Please note that interviews, should they be arranged, will be online rather than in person due to COVID-19.

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RENU20/.....) will not be considered.

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.

Funding Notes

The studentship covers full fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rates (for 2019/20, this was £15,009 pa). Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges).

Note that up to 3 offers of a PhD place will be made for the ReNU CDT projects advertised by Northumbria University.



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