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Photosensitizer functionalised electrospun nanofibres for photoremediation of microbial and chemical water contaminants

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Prof P A Millner  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This industrial CASE (iCASE) project is funded by the BBSRC. It will be supervised by Prof Paul Millner (School of Biomedical Sciences/University of Leeds), co-supervised by Prof Bob Stevens (School of Science and Technology/Nottingham Trent University). Hollingsworth and Vose (H&V) Ltd, who are the iCASE partners are specialist paper/fabric producers, including the nanofibre mats that will be used inthis project. Most of the work will be carried out at Leeds, but periods of time will be spent within Bob Stevens laboratory and also at H&V.

Electrospun nanofibres, typically of diameter around 100-200 nm can be produced with many surface chemistries and are collected onto a backing as a random 'felt'. Hitherto they have been utilised mainly for filtration applications. However, other uses are emerging from their extremely high specific surface area since high amounts of active biomolecules (enzymes, binding proteins and chromophores) can be attached to fabricate a solid phase reactive surface. Within the Millner and Stevens laboratories preliminary work has shown that chemically reactive nanofibre mats can be produced and photosensitizing groups covalently attached to nanofibre mats. We hava also shown that these surfaces are very effective at killing 'model' bacteria and viruses in a light dependent fashion. It is likely that the reactive oxygen species generated will also be effective at causing degradation of water borne organic pollutants.

Synthetic and natural photosensitizers will be covalently coupled to nanofibre mats by carbodiimide condensation of amine groups on the nanofibres to carboxy groups on the sensitizers (or vice versa). Other chemistries will be investigated. A key milestone will be to determine the most effective photosensitizer species and fibre loading. The parameters governing light dependent cell killing will be determined initially with model organisms (phage MS2 and E. coli); the work will then be extended to water borne pathogens. Photosensitizer loaded nanofibres will also be tested for their ability to photodegrade organic water pollutants e.g. polycyclic hydrocarbons and common endocrine disrupters. Analysis of the treated pollutants will be performed by hplc/mass spectrometry to assess the degree of oxidation and aromatic ring opening that is typically a first step in degradation. A second milestone will be to demonstrate principle that photoremediation of organic pollutants can occur.

Overall, the project offers a highly multidisciplinary training in translational nano- and bionanoscience and exposure to the industrial environment (H&V) that will ultimately exploit the project findings.

Funding Notes

The project is open to UK and EU students who have, or expect to have, at least a 2.1 grade degree or its equivalent within Biochemistry, Chemistry or allied subjects such as Microbiology by the start date of 01 October 2013. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the project, applicants must be prepared to engage with subject areas outside their specialist area. Full support and training will be given within the Millner and Stevens laboratories that provide vibrant research communities into which the successful applicant is expected to become a full participant.


Caygill RL, Hodges CS, Holmes JL, Higson SPJ, Blair GE; Millner PA (2012). Novel impedimetric immunosensor for the detection and quantitation of Adenovirus using reduced antibody fragments immobilized onto a conducting copolymer surface. Biosensors & Bioelectronics 32, 104-110.

Neville F, Broderick MJF, Gibson T, Millner PA. (2011). Fabrication and activity of silicate nanoparticles and nanosilicate-entrapped enzymes using polyethyleneimine as a biomimetic polymer. Langmuir 27, 279-285.

Hardick O, Stevens R, Bracewell DG (2011) Nanofibre fabrication in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for improved consistency. Journal of Materials Science 46:3890-3898.

Kueh JL-ling, Raisman G, Li D, Stevens R, et al. (2012) Directionality and bipolarity of olfactory ensheathing cells on electrospun nanofibres. Nanomedicine Vol. 6., Number 2, June 2012, pp1-14(14)

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