Bioelectrochemistry is a rapidly growing area that harnesses the structural and functional versatility of biomolecules with simple yet effective electronic signal acquisition. A very recent application of bioelectrochemistry is represented by biological fuel cells (BFCs) that may become a sustainable route towards clean and portable low-power electrical energy. Biological fuel cells are based on two electrodes coated with catalysts, with the anode oxidizing fuel and acting as an electron source and the cathode reducing the oxidant acting as an electron sink. The conversion of the organic substrates into electricity is catalyzed by enzymes, which can be within an organism (microbial fuel cells, MFC), or alone (enzymatic fuel cells, EFC). At the University of Bath we have a great experience in the design and development of miniature BFCs for applications such as:
1) Power source for a number of biomedical devices, including biosensors, neurostimulators, hearing and vision devices, drug pumps and others. In the actual contest of a high demand for miniature and sustainable electrical power sources to develop autonomous self-sufficient micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) implants and wearable devices, micro machining the BFC technology is of high interest.
2) Sensors for water quality. BFCs can be used to assess in real time and on site the quality of water without the use of complex instruments. The use of cost-effective materials can allow its use to developing countries, thus empowering vulnerable communities in participating to decision making processes.
3) Energy generation from waste. We need to re-think the way we perceive waste and transform it into a source of energy rather than something that requires energy to be disposed of. BFCs can generate clean electricity from domestic, agricultural and industrial waste.
Excellent UK students are invited to compete for Annual University Research Studentships (URSA) award to work on micro BFCs in either of the three areas of application (healthcare, water and energy), depending on the candidate’s interests and background. Also, depending on the candidate, the research might focus more on the engineering (e.g. design), chemical (e.g. materials), biological (e.g. enzymes, micro-organisms) aspects of this research.
The project has a multidisciplinary nature and will be primarily supervised by Dr Di Lorenzo Mirella, a lecturer of Biochemical Engineering at the Department of Chemical Engineering, but also by supervisors from other departments, such as Chemistry and Biology.
Students will work with internationally leading research groups and are expected to present the research at international conferences relevant to the field of interest .
Candidates from relevant scientific/engineering backgrounds will be considered, including Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology or a related numerate or analytical discipline.
Prospective candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo ([email protected]
) directly for further details. Please send a CV and a cover letter to Dr Di Lorenzo no later than 30th October 2016. Candidates will be shortlisted for the full online application.