Sustainable production of Vitamin K1

   Chemical Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The project: Vitamin K1 is an essential nutrient in both human and animal nutrition. Given the increasing environmental pressures facing us as a society there is a need to develop safe, sustainable and cost-effective production methods for important compounds.

We have previously shown that microalgae are a rich source of Vitamin K1, and there is considerable potential for these organisms to be used in sustainable production. This is because they are photosynthetic, meaning the primary inputs to the process are sunlight and carbon dioxide. Additionally, production using microalgae is favourable as they do not need to be grown using arable land or potable water, avoiding competition with existing food production methods. However, the diversity of microalgae has yet to be fully explored, and there are some challenges in developing and scaling-up processes.

This project aims to address these challenges in order to develop novel, sustainable production processes.

What you will be doing: this project will be primarily lab based. Students working on this project can:

• Cultivate a range of species of microalgae and cyanobacteria at small (< 250 mL) scales, as well as at larger (3 L) scales using custom built photo-bioreactors.

• Learn skills related to the extraction of vitamin K1 from algal biomass, as well as quantitating the concentrations using HPLC

• Learn skills in process development and optimisation

• Learn skills in process modelling and techno-economic evaluation.

Work on the project is not limited to these areas – if you have an area you are particularly interested in please get in touch.

Your background:

Applicants should have a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree, or a MSc in chemical engineering, biotechnology or a related discipline. Applicants should be able to work independently, have good written and oral communication skills and be self-motivated.

Research journey

Doctoral research programmes (PhDs) take a proud place in the world-class research environment and community at Brunel. PhD students are recognised and valued by their supervisors as an essential part of their departments and a key component of the university's overall strategy to develop and deliver world-class research.

A PhD programme is expected to take 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time, with intakes starting in January, April or October.

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (1st or 2:1) or an international equivalent. A Masters degree is a welcome, but not required, qualification for entry.

Find out how to apply for a PhD at Brunel

Research support

Excellent research support and training

The Graduate School provides a range of personal, professional and career development opportunities. This includes workshops, online training, coaching and events, to enable you to enhance your professional profile, refine your skills, and plan your next career steps as part of the Researcher Development Programme. The researcher development programme (RDP) offers workshops and seminars in a range of areas including progression, research management, research dissemination, and careers and personal development. You will also be offered a number of online, self-study courses on BBL, including Research Integrity, Research Skills Toolkit, Research Methods in Literature Review and Principles of Research Methods.

Library services

Brunel's Library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 ebooks, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs. As well as the physical resources available in the Library, we also provide access to a wealth of electronic resources. These include databases, journals and e-books. Access to these resources has been bought by the Library through subscription and is limited to current staff and students. 

Dedicated research support staff provide guidance and training on open access, research data management, copyright and other research integrity issues.

Find out more: Brunel Library

Careers support

You will receive tailored careers support during your PhD and for up to three years after you complete your research at Brunel. We encourage you to actively engage in career planning and managing your personal development right from the start of your research, even (or perhaps especially) if you don't yet have a career path in mind. Our careers provision includes online information and advice, one-to-one consultations and a range of events and workshops. The Professional Development Centre runs a varied programme of careers events throughout the academic year. These include industry insight sessions, recruitment fairs, employer pop-ups and skills workshops.

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: View Website. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.


Tarento, T.D.C., McClure, D.D., Vasiljevski, E., Schindeler, A., Dehghani, F., and Kavanagh, J.M. (2018). Microalgae as a source of vitamin K1. Algal Research 36, 77-87., T.D.C., McClure, D.D., Dehghani, F., and Kavanagh, J.M. (2019). Pilot-scale production of phylloquinone (vitamin K1) using a bubble column photo-bioreactor. Biochemical Engineering Journal 150, 107243.

How good is research at Brunel University London in Engineering?

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

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