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Sustainable multifunctional polymer foams (ref: SF18/APP/Perry)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Perry
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Chitin is the second most abundant biopolymer after cellulose it being found in the exoskeletons of insects and other invertebrates as well as providing structural rigidity to fungi. Currently chitin and its deacetylation product chitosan are massively underutilized entirely biodegradable polymers with enormous potential for replacement for direct replacement of non-degrading, petrochemical derived polymers.
This PhD seeks to use chitin and chitosan in the development of aerogel foams and composite materials which would build on research being done in the research group lead by Professor Justin Perry, and would be principally allied to the themes being investigated by the Manufacturing Immortality project ( ). This £2.2M project is aiming to develop innovative manufacturing methods to enable the creation of biohybrid materials which can actively respond to their environment. Functionalized chitosan foams can be envisaged as a matrix material to make composite biohybrid materials with the added benefit of being biodegradable. This PhD would seek to develop materials with controlled release, tuneable transport and permeability properties as well as including bioinspired structural elements to aid self-repair and actuation under external influence. Using group experience in industrial biotechnology, we will include biocatalytic functionality alongside state of the art polymer chemistry to create new functional materials. In addition, additive manufacturing and 3D/inkjet printing will be used develop complex morphologies and microscale surface features.
Applicants should have a first degree in either chemistry, biochemistry, polymer science or material science and have an interest in working in multidisciplinary environment performing research which will span the range from theoretical studies in fundamental properties to product case studies which demonstrate the utility of the project’s findings to commercial research partners. Candidates with an interest in learning new skills across discipline boundaries, particularly those of the biosciences, are particularly encouraged to apply.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
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 should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July 2019 for October 2019 start, or 1st December 2018 for March 2019 start
Start Date: October or March

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 studentship is only open to self-funding candidates. Self-funding candidates are expected to pay University fees and to provide their own living costs. University fee bands are shown at
Projects in Applied Sciences are typically costed at Band 3 or Band 4.


• A high-throughput screening method for determining the substrate scope of nitrilases.
Graeme Turnbull, Nicola L. Brown, Meng Zhang, Gary W. Black, David Randall and Justin J. B. Perry, Chemical Communications, 2015 , Vol 51, 2660 – 2662
• An investigation of nitrile transforming enzymes in the chemo-enzymatic synthesis of the taxol sidechain
Birgit Wilding, Alicja B. Veselá, Justin J. B. Perry, Gary W. Black, Meng Zhang, Ludmila Martínková and Norbert Klempier, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, 2015, Vol 13, No 28, 7803-7812
• Determination of the Biocide Econea® in Artificial Seawater by Solid Phase Extraction and High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry,
Robert A. Downs, John R. Dean, Adrian Downer and Justin J. Perry, Separations, 2017, Vol 4, No 4, 34-40
• “Getting chemical with a 3D printer”: a blog at

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