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PhD Studentship in Chemical Engineering - Novel materials for intensified bioenergetic biomass production and aquaculture wastewater treatment

Project Description

Number of awards:


Start date and duration:

September 2019 for 4 years.


The student will be part of The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU) ( which is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking the individual scientific research project described below 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.

This PhD project aims to increase the amount of microalgae biomass produced from aquaculture wastewater treatment by studying novel shapes of 3-D printed translucid plastic materials in the form of beads, large spheres, rings, or saddles. Intensive fish farming has increased the amount of wastewater produced by aquaculture. Current treatment systems used to remove high nutrient wastewater loads (e.g. biological nitrification/denitrification or chemical precipitation) are efficient but produce carbon dioxide emissions and/or toxic sludge. Cultivating microalgae offers the conversion of both, carbon dioxide to oxygen, and contaminant nutrients to algal biomass. The produced microalgae biomass can then be converted to fuel or other energetic products. Cultivation of microalgae using novel materials could lead to the production of high biomass loads, and nutrient removals. Successful systems have already been commercialised for nitrifying microorganisms but this will be a novel undertaking for microalgae cultivation. The microalgae produced will be collected by flotation, characterised and assessed for product conversion. The student joining this project will closely liaise with Green Fuels Research Ltd. This will involve having industrial research supervision to gain insight and knowledge of the biofuels industry, plus conducting pilot-scale experiments using their in-house pilot scale facilities in Berkeley, UK.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (

Name of supervisor(s):

Dr Sharon Velasquez-Orta, School of Engineering (

Eligibility Criteria:

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in chemical engineering, biochemical engineering, biotechnology, environmental engineering or related field. The award is available to UK/EU nationals only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria (, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award. If English is not your first language, you must have IELTS 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in all sub-skills).

How to apply:

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system by creating an account ( To do this please select ‘How to Apply’ and choose the ‘Apply now’ button

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:
•click on programme of study
•insert 8030F in the programme code section and click search
•select Programme name ‘PhD in Chemical Engineering (Full Time) – Chemical Engineering’
•insert renu193 in the studentship/partnership reference field
•Attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code renu193 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project.
•Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.


For further details, please contact:

Dr. Sharon Velasquez Orta (
School of Engineering
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7278

Funding Notes

The studentship covers full UK/EU fees (eligibility criteria applies to EU students) and an annual living allowance of £14,777 (at the 2018/19 UKRI rate). Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges).

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