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Novel microbial fuel design and production - a multidisciplinary approach (Advert Reference: SF19/EE/MCE/AZIMOV)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr U Azimov, Prof A Burluka  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to experimentally produce novel microbial fuels from microalgae, 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 competing pathways, related 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 microalgae 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 will be supervised by Dr Ulugbek Azimov.

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.

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

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. SF19/EE/MCE/AZIMOV) will not be considered.

Start Date: 1 March 2020 or 1 October 2020

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 and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded research project.


1. V. Okoro, U. Azimov, J. Munoz, H. Hernandez, A. Phan. Microalgae cultivation and harvesting: Growth performance and use of flocculants - A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol.115, 2019, 109364.

2. A. Labourel, A. Baslé, A., J. Munoz, D. Ndeh, S. Booth, SA. Nepogodiev, RA. Field, A. Cartmell. Structural and functional analyses of glycoside hydrolase 138 enzymes targeting chain A galacturonic acid in the complex pectin rhamnogalacturonan II. Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 294, 2019, 19, p. 7711-7721.

3. O. Adeniyi, U. Azimov, A. Burluka. Algae biofuel: Current status and future applications. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol.90, 2018, pp. 316-335

4. U. Azimov, N. Stylianidis, E. Tomita, N. Kawahara. Characterisation of DME-HCCI combustion cycles for formaldehyde and hydroxyl UV–vis absorption. Fuel, Vol.210, 2017, pp. 578-591.
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