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Fully Funded EPSRC and Zimmer and Peacock PhD Scholarship: Novel Enzymatic Biosensors for Precise Agriculture and Aquaculture Monitoring

Swansea University - Chemistry

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Swansea
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £17,668 p.a.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 8th December 2022
Closes: 20th January 2023

Funding providers: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Zimmer and Peacock

Subject areas: Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Engineering

Project description: 

The UK agri-food industry which is worth around £108 billion to the national economy and provides over 3.7 million jobs. The agri-food sector as a whole generates around £18 billion of gross export earnings for the UK each year. The sector is keen to respond to policy issues relating to environment, energy consumption, health, food safety, wastage, and wellness as well as to consumer choice. Smart or precision agriculture is defined as a new way of sustainable agriculture which allows farmers to maximise crop yields using minimal resources (water, fertilizers, seeds etc) and reduce waste. In agriculture, soil macro and micronutrients, pH level, soil water potential, pesticides, pathogens are critical parameters to analysis the quality of soils. Quantifying nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium macronutrients in agriculture farming soils can be used to optimise yields from high-quality plant growth, whilst at the same time helping to minimise excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers - responsible for environmental pollution (from N leaching, denitrification, and volatilization that generates ammonia and nitrous oxides). The project aims at developing novel enzymatic biosensors for precise agriculture and aquaculture monitoring. Nitrate and Phosphate ions are key components of fertilisers in agriculture and their concentration above certain levels represent potential pollution for underground waters. Similarly, in aquaculture, the excess of nitrate and phosphate ions accelerate the eutrophication causing dramatic increase of plants growth, and in turns affecting the concentration of dissolved oxygen in waters, which is a key parameter in fish farming. It is evident that detection and control of nitrate and phosphate ions is crucial in agriculture and aquaculture. In this project, enzymes such as nitrite reductase and pyruvate oxidase will be encapsulated within alginate hydrogels and deposited on various carbon electrodes. These biosensors will be utilised to detect such ions in soil and fish farming waters using various voltammetric methods and electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL). These as-prepared biosensors will be integrated with the current screen-printed electrode technologies developed by Zimmer&Peacok (ZP) and their suitability to mass production will be tested. The project will be co-funded by ZP which has a wealthy and growing business in developing biosensors for monitoring of various analytes of interest in agriculture and aquaculture.

Eligibility

Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level in chemistry, physics, engineering or a related subject, or a master’s degree with a minimum overall grade at ‘Merit’ in chemistry or a related subject (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University).

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.0 overall (with at least 5.5 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent. 

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

Funding

This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £17,668 for 2022/23).

Additional research expenses will also be available. 

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