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UKRI EPSRC CDT EngD Scholarship: Bio-inspired Coatings with Advanced Properties from Natural Resources

Swansea University - Engineering

Qualification Type: Professional Doctorate
Location: Swansea
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £22,000 p.a. tax-free stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 25th January 2023
Closes: 3rd March 2023

Sponsor Company: AINIA

Project start date:  

  • 1 October 2023

Company:
AINIA Technology Center, is a non-profit private association, whose aim is to promote research and technological development in the agri-food sector, increase the quality of production, improve competitiveness, and promote the modernization and diversification of agri-food industries, through the capacity of services to its associates, and by carrying out public or contract R&D projects.

Project Aims:

The supporting objective of the project is the development of bio-based and bio-inspired functional coatings with advanced properties (e.g., adhesion, gas barrier, superhydrophobicity or oil repellency) for applications ranging from packaging or microencapsulation of active substances to self-cleaning surfaces. To this end, we will utilise widely available biomass materials, e.g., (nano)cellulose, (nano)lignin, (nano)chitin, in combination with other natural ingredients such as gums, proteins, peptides, inorganic (nano)particles, fatty acids, or waxes. Following Nature’s hierarchical designs, we will modify and combine these individual building blocks into supramolecular assemblies that achieve the desired properties for the target applications. The molecular and supramolecular designs will be assisted by multiscale computational modelling, ranging from density functional theory (DFT) calculations to full-atomistic and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. The data generated with these computational methods can be used to train machine learning models that will accelerate materials discovery and property predictions.

Within the concept of circular economy, the new formulations will be based on natural ingredients, or compounds that could be obtained from the agrifood industry (area in which AINIA has extensive expertise), and we will aim at materials that can be intrinsically designed for degradation, i.e., circularity by design. To achieve adequate properties for the target applications, while complying with natural principles of circularity and performance, we will initially consider lignocellulosic derivatives (e.g., microfibers of cellulose, nanolignin) as the core components of the coatings. These lignocellulosic derivatives can be used as received or after undergoing additional functionalization, following computational designs, or rational intuition. Furthermore, other additives will be included into the formulation to impart additional properties (e.g., flexibility, resistance). Examples of these additives are gums, proteins, peptides, inorganic particles, fatty acids, or waxes.

According to this general objective, two parallel research lines are proposed:

  • Biobased coatings for packaging applications, microencapsulation of active substances and functional food-grade paints.
  • Bio-adhesives for packaging application.

Working locations:

The EngD student will be based at Swansea University (UK), with punctual research stays at AINIA, in Valencia (Spain). At Swansea, the student will have access to the COATED M2A facilities, as well as to Supercomputing Wales for the computational research, with access to high-throughput high-performance computing, including the AccelerateAI facilities for GPU-based computing.

Eligibility

Candidates must normally hold at minimum (or expect to obtain by the start date) an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level. 

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 6.0 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent. 

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

For more information on eligibility, please visit our website.

Funding

This studentship covers a full award and includes a tax-free stipend (currently £22,000 per annum) and tuition fees, each for a period of four years, subject to meeting University progression requirements.  

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