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Synthetic and Mechanistic Studies into Enzymatic Degradation of Waste Plastics

   Department of Chemistry

Manchester United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Biochemistry Biotechnology Microbiology Molecular Biology Organic Chemistry Synthetic Chemistry

About the Project

Plastics are a broad range of solid polymeric materials that have found widespread application as industrial components and consumer goods. However, there has been a steady accumulation of discarded plastics throughout the world, and there is now growing awareness that they present a significant hazard to the natural environment and human health. In relation to these concerns, there is increasing emphasis on the recovery (and subsequent reuse) of plastic materials, or their conversion into other materials than can serve as feedstocks for new products.

 Enzymes that catalyse oxidations are known to convert compounds that are usually resistant to other types of chemical reactions; and have therefore been proposed to be able to decompose plastics. This project will aim to discover new oxidative enzymes for the degradation of plastics that contain chemically unreactive C-C, C-H and C-O chemical bonds, for which there are currently no viable reprocessing methods. Thus, the research will involve the chemical synthesis of small molecule models of the plastics, heterologous production of the enzymes, testing of the enzymes with the model molecules (together with the chemical and spectroscopic analysis) and mechanistic studies of the enzymatic reactions.

There may also be opportunities to carry our field work to isolate microbes from the natural environment, which may be the source of novel enzymes that are able to digest synthetic plastics materials.

The successful candidate will join a growing team of multidisciplinary researchers from a range of backgrounds from chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and materials engineering. The research group is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology ( and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities.

Academic background of candidates

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or the overseas equivalent) in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, molecular biology or microbiology (or other related area).  

Contact for further Information

Dr Lu Shin Wong,

Funding Notes

This is a PhD project for students with their own funding/scholarship in place. The fees are £32,000 GBP per annum for Overseas students, and £11,600 GBP per annum for Home students, in 2021-22.


1. C.-C. Chen, L. Dai, L. Ma, R.-T. Guo, Nat. Rev. Chem. 2020, 4, 114.
2. H. Inderthal, S. L. Tai, S. T. L. Harrison, Trends Biotechnol. 2021, 39, 12.

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