PhD Studentship: The Production of High Value Chemicals From Waste in a Biofilm Based Reactor

University of Southampton - Water and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

A huge amount of waste is generated from different sectors every day, which requires management and final disposal. Meanwhile, fossil fuel is still the most important resource to produce important chemicals. In the circular economy, the extraction of fossil fuel should be minimized while resource recovery from waste should be maximized for sustainable development. This project thus aims to produce a high-value chemical, i.e. succinic acid, from waste through biotechnology. Succinic acid is an important platform chemical and has been identified as one of the top potential chemical building blocks for the future. Succinic acid is currently manufactured mainly by petrochemical processes. For sustainable development, the move from fossil fuel to renewable raw materials has been started via succinic acid fermentation towards a biobased economy. The bioproduction of succinic acid is mainly restricted to conventional feedstock at the moment, however, with a batch operation mode resulting in low productivity and feedstock competition for food. To explore the economic and environmental feasibility of succinic acid bioproduction with widely available biomass wastes, the key technical challenges such as inhibition from biomass hydrolysate and fermentation product and low productivity have to be overcome. This project will develop a biofilm-based process for continuous bioproduction of succinic acid from biomass hydrolysate. Inhibition from hydrolysate and fermentation broth could be alleviated due to the three-dimensional structure formed by cell attachment to the support. Meanwhile, this biofilm based technology can not only achieve higher biomass retention in the reactor, but also enable continuous fermentation with improved productivity feasible. Apart from biofilm-based process development for continuous fermentation of succinic acid, energy performance assessment of succinic acid production will be carried out in this project for the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability of the newly developed process.

Requirement: Background on chemical or biochemical engineering, Environmental Engineering or chemistry or Environmental Science with 2:1 above degree

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Yongqiang Liu, Water and Environmental Engineering research group, Email: Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2843

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South East England