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PhD position (ESR 12) in Marie Skłodowska Curie ITN “FoodTraNet”: The synthesis of smart biopolymer materials with nanostructured surfaces with antimicrobial, biocompatible, anti-adhesive properties


   Chem./ Environ. Pollution Control Laboratory

  Prof Dimitrios Bikiaris  Wednesday, June 30, 2021  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Thessaloniki Greece Analytical Chemistry Biochemistry Bioinformatics Environmental Biology Microbiology Nanotechnology Food Sciences Pharmaceutical Chemistry

About the Project

Context: It is estimated that 1.2-1.5 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year globally, and the shelf life of food, its maintenance/conservation and safety is of high interest to everyone in the food chain, including producers and consumers. Several factors affect food shelf life like microbiological, chemical, biochemical, and physical (storage) conditions. For long-term storage, packaging is one of the most important factors which affect food preservation. New packaging materials, mainly polymers, are designed to protect food against chemical and microbiological contamination, optimise shelf life, and protect consumer health. These polymers should be free of any substances that could interfere or contaminate food, have high mechanical performance, be appropriate gas barriers, and have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. In recent years, interest in biobased and fully biodegradable and biocompatible polymers as food packaging materials has increased. Furanoate polyesters are the most important class of bio-based polymers derived from biomass or synthesised from biomass-originated monomers, which can be used as alternatives to fossil-based polymers. The annual production growth of biobased polymers is estimated at around 18-20% using renewable sources, thus reducing CO2 emissions by 60-80% and the need for non-renewable energy use (NREU) at about 70%. Nanotechnology can contribute to this direction using new and smart nano-additives enhancing the properties of traditional food packaging materials. Additional techniques can also be applied on food packaging polymers, such as using nano-additives coatings to improve its permeability to gaseous compounds (water and oxygen), and specific micro/nano textured geometries can be designed, fabricated and replicated using nanoimprint lithography. These materials will further enhance the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of the food packaging surface, leading to improved food maintenance/conservation and safety.

Objectives: To develop new biopolymer packaging material with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Specific objectives are to:

  • Produce high purity 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) for the preparation of bio-based polyesters using 18 This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 956265. diols like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and butanediol as packaging material.
  • Study the addition of nano-additives with antimicrobial properties by in situ polymerisations.
  • Characterise smart biopolymers (molecular weight and physical properties: thermal, mechanical, the degree of crystallinity, solubility, gas barrier, toxicity and antimicrobial properties).
  • Determine the safety and migration of smart polyester residues (monomers, decomposition byproducts) into foods or carbonated drinks and juices using LC-MS and GC-MS.
  • Up-scale for industrial application.

Expected Results: A new biopolymer packaging material with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties (D3.4); Characterisation of smart biopolymer materials using MSI methods (M9); Synthesis of monomers and polyesters including nanoadditives (M10). Planned secondments: S41: UM (L. Fras/O. Plohl /Z. Peršin), 2 months, M17-M18 to investigate interactions between polymer matrix and inorganic nanoparticles using a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) technique; S42: AHat (L. Tourasanidis), 2 months, M13 and M28, up-scaling of production technologies to industrial application and commercialisation; S43: M4I (B. Cillero Pastor) 4 months, M20-M23, nano-TOF SIMS analysis for packaging surface characterisation and interaction with food components. Bacterial profiling (fast screening) by MALDI-MS.

ESR Profile and requirements:

  • PhD Candidate must hold an Academic Master recognised by the EU in one of the following disciplines: chemistry or chemical engineering science, polymer science or material science.
  • The researcher must not have resided or carried out this/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Greece for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment. Compulsory national service and short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
  • Outstanding academic study performances according to ECST grading scale and recognised by the EU.
  • Expertise or knowledge in polymer science, in particular in material synthesis and characterisation.
  • Strong interest in basic research, organic and polymer chemistry. - You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity, and cooperation.
  • Flexibility and team spirit in an international research environment.

Additional Qualifications:

  • Publications in scientific journals on material and polymer science.
  • Presentations in scientific conferences on material and polymer science.
  • Proven knowledge of chemistry or chemical engineering or polymer or material sciences.
  • Proven knowledge of material characterisation (e.g. XRD, FTIR, DSC, mechanical properties, etc.).
  • The knowledge is substantiated by the relevant diploma thesis or relative courses of the course (analytical grade and if the title of the course does not directly lead the correlation, the analytical score will be accompanied by the description of the course in the Study Guide) or with a relative publication or with a relevant certificate.
  • Interview.

How to apply

Application Process:

All applications, in English, must be done using FoodTraNet application form. To access the application form click on this link: 

https://www.foodtranet.org/apply.html

The application form requires basic contact information (name, surname, email) and ESR eligibility criteria (date of Master’s award, full-time postgraduate research experience in months, country of residence and duration of residence in that country). Applicants are invited to choose up to three PhD Positions in order of preference. Only the complete applications (completed application form, CV, Covering Letter and Academic Records) will be evaluated. FoodTraNet is committed to Open, transparent, Merit-based Recruitment procedures of Researchers (OTM-R). Please contact  if you have any problems submitting your application.

Please carefully read the Call for Applicants guidance document for more information regarding Employment Conditions, ESR Benefits, and Eligibility Rules before you submit your application: https://www.foodtranet.org/images/call_for_applicants_guidance.pdf .