Hormone-free environment via imprinted devices
Protection of human health and the environment is one of the major challenges of present days. This PhD project is a game-changing investigation and research on the uptake and recycle of birth control hormones. After the active ingredient in most birth control pills has done its duty preventing pregnancy, it begins a second life as a pollutant that can harm wildlife in waterways. Estrogens are the primary female sex hormones and their natural and synthetic analogues are used as part of oral contraceptives. Among the most common pollutants that enter the environment after passing municipal wastewater treatment are estrogens, especially the synthetic 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) that is used in oral contraceptives. EE2 plays an extraordinary role as a pollutant because of its high estrogenic potency and because it is, in the aquatic environment, more stable and persistent than natural estrogens. EE2 is now commonly found in surface waters at concentrations around 1-10 ng.L-1 but higher concentrations have frequently been reported or are expected, especially in densely populated urban areas. On the other hand, hormones in general are very potent and even in low concentrations can be very harmful both to humans and animals. We can be exposed to them by eating or drinking affected food or water, or indeed absorbing them through our skin. The worry is that external sources of hormones can have various detrimental effects in living organisms, leading to health problems including cancer, reduce general viability, induce gonadal malformations or feminization of genetic male fish, or lead to sterilization. Artificial enzymes offer an innovative approach to capture hormones from complex matrices such as urine and surface waters. The PhD candidate will develop artificial enzymes in resin and membrane formats to capture EE2 from surface waters. Sensors to monitor EE2 at ultra-low levels in water samples will also be developed. The enzymes will be designed and optimized to obtain high binding capacity and fast adsorption kinetics. Recovery of EE2 as well as recycling of the adsorbent will be investigated.
The project is highly multidisciplinary providing candidates with engineering and science backgrounds with an understanding of the fundamentals of chemical engineering, chemistry and material science. It is appropriate for those who aspire to lead technology development and engineering and create new technology-enabled ventures.
The ideal candidate has (or is in process to obtain) a first or high 2.1 class degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, material science or bioengineering. Informal enquiries with CV attached can be sent to Dr. Gyorgy Szekely ([email protected]), School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, The University of Manchester.
If you wish to apply for this project, please choose 'PhD Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science' from the list of available programmes.
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