Developing enhanced production and separation techniques for glycolipid biosurfactants
Glycolipid biosurfactants are naturally occurring amphiphiles with a range of unique properties including biodegradability and tolerance of a wide range of temperature and pH. These properties have facilitated the commercialisation of these biosrufactants by a number of companies in recent years, in a range of cleaning and personal care products.
There is significant interest in molecules produced from industrial biotechnology routes and using biosurfactants such as sophorolipids as bulk chemicals, in particular for bioremediation and enhanced oil recovery, though the current cost of production is currently prohibitive. This is in part because of the requirement for feeding large quantities of substrate, meaning there is a requirement for significant unused bioreactor volume at the beginning of the fermentation, and the high viscosity of the sophorolipid phase, which accumulates in the bioreactor over time inhibiting oxygen mass transfer to the cells.
We have developed a novel gravity separation process to separate the sophorolipid product as it is produced and remove it from the bioreactor, reducing the bioreactor volume requirement and thereby enhancing productivity and fermentation product titre, and are working to exploit this technology commercially.
This PhD project will aim to further enhance fermentation and separation techniques for glycolipid biosurfactants, potentially facilitating further decreases in production costs. The project will build on current funded work with industrial collaborators to develop a controllable, scalable integrated bioprocess. Further background information on the project can be found via the following links;
 Dolman, BD et al. 2016, Process Biochemistry, in press
This project is available for self-funded or externally sponsored students only.
Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Chemical Engineering or a related subject.
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FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.90
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