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Textile microplastics: causes and cures - improving our understanding of the drivers of fibre loss during washing


Project Description

Applicants are invited for this 4 year PhD studentship, sponsored by the EPSRC and Proctor & Gamble.

Fabric care products such as laundry detergents and fabric softeners play an important role in protecting a consumer’s investment in clothing, which currently accounts for ~5% of household spending in the UK. The decay of clothing through washing and wearing has significant environmental consequences due to the high energy, water and waste footprint involved in garment manufacture.

Research in recent years has concluded that microplastics in the marine environment are of growing concern. Synthetic fibre loss from clothing during washing, can contribute to significant environmental safety issues. We therefore need to identify novel approaches to slow down the premature ageing of clothing and reduce fibre loss into waste water after laundering.

The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of the drivers of fibre loss during washing. The work will investigate the value of using different approaches to mitigate the issue by for example, optimising wash conditions, and developing new technologies aimed at reducing fibre loss through, for example, novel biopolishing enzymes, surface modification of textile polymers, and lubricants. Work will be split between the laboratories of Prof. Burgess at Newcastle University and Dr Lant at Procter & Gamble’s Newcastle Innovation Centre, which is located four miles from the main university campus.

The enzyme development work will include the use of bioinformatics tools for advanced high-throughput mining of environmental metagenomes, gene amplification/synthesis, cloning and protein expression, as well as advanced surface imaging at Newcastle University’s Surface Engineering and Analysis Laboratory Application work at P&G will involve micro- and mid-scale simulation of washing, measurement of optical and physical properties of textiles, and quantification and physical characterisation of abraded microfibers.

Funding Notes

The studentship is open to UK and EU students. It provides a stipend at normal UK Research Council rates of £14,553 per annum (2017-18) and tuition fees for 4 years. Start Date: October 2017

To apply please submit your CV (including university grades/predicted grades, together with the names and contact details of two referees) together with a covering letter/e-mail to

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