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SAFENUT: Cold plasma as an Intervention technology to ensure a safe and nutritious groundnut supply

Project Description

Project details:

Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L., Peanut) is an important oilseed and food crop, playing a significant role in global food and nutrition security as a source of non-animal protein. Groundnut production is subject to insect and fungal contamination. Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by toxigenic fungi. Aflatoxin is produced by toxigenic strains of A. flavus and A. parasiticus, and negatively impacts groundnut supplies globally. The presence of Aflatoxin results in the downgrading of nuts and oilseeds, and depletion of their nutritional and economic value. One of the most promising applications of cold plasma technology is for control of food spoilage and safety risks that threaten the security of nutritious food supplies globally. This project will advance knowledge of cold plasma as an intervention technology for improving the safety and nutritional value of groundnut production, through controlling both fungal and chemical contaminants. A range of reactive Oxygen and Nitrogen Species are generated within a cold plasma discharge, which are responsible for many of the decontamination effects. Cold plasma can also be applied to liquids, which can retain the reactive species in a longer-lived form. This project will investigate how different modes of cold plasma -both gas plasma and plasma-functionalised liquid can improve the safety of groundnuts. The objectives are to devise cold plasma processes that will control different phenotypes of Aspergillus spp. to prevent or mitigate Aflatoxin formation in the first instance. Further, the critical parameters for degradation of preformed Aflatoxin will be determined. The patterns and impact of breakdown products as well as potential effects on the macronutrients of groundnuts will be determined. High Content analysis will be employed to ascertain the biological safety of cold plasma as an intervention technology for groundnut production.

This project will be supervised by Professor Paula Bourke and Professor Chris Elliott (Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences/Institute for Global Food Security) and Professor Brendan Gilmore (Queen’s University School of Pharmacy/Institute for Global Food Security).

All applications MUST be submitted through https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php.

Specific skills/experience required by applicants:

Degree or expected degree in biosciences, microbiology, food science, or analytical chemistry.

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements: https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-research/biological-sciences-phd.html#entry

Funding Notes

Only UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Before applying, it is strongly recommended that you read the full information on eligibility criteria available from DfE: View Website.

Please note in particular that not all successful applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship (i.e. fees and stipend) - please read in detail the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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