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PhD Studentship in Bacterially Derived Biopolymers for Water/Wastewater Pollutants Mitigation

University of Nottingham - Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Nottingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,110 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th January 2024
Closes: 29th February 2024
Reference: ENG1739

Over the last decades, the rapid increase in demand, and therefore production, of synthetic plastics has resulted in considerable energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, along with the release of hazardous pollutants to the environment. Nowadays, Plastic pollution has become one of the most crucial environmental concerns. Plastic production has exceeded 8300 million tonnes (MT) since 1950s, 380 MT in 2015 alone, and around 80% of plastic waste is present in the environment, especially oceans or landfill.
On the other hand, biopolymers have been recognised as promising alternatives to replace conventional plastics, as they can be produced from renewable biomass resources and a wide variety of microorganisms, requiring lower energy consumption in comparison. Biopolymers deriving from biological sources include proteins, polysaccharides, lipids, polyesters which are produced from fast-growing microorganisms. Such biopolymers present an alternative to conventional polymers and have a wide variety of applications i.e., as food additives, in packaging, automobiles, medicine, textiles and agricultural sector, water treatment, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and their production results in lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional plastics.
The use of bacterial polymers as agents for water/ wastewater treatment has recently gained considerable attention since they are biodegradable, non-toxic and characterised by high flocculation efficiencies. They have a great potential for use in bioremediation of emerging contaminants, yet they remain underexploited to date. Soon these non-toxic, biodegradable polymers are expected to replace synthetic ones, such as polyacrylamide. In this way, the formation of polyacrylamide microplastics that pollute aquatic environments could be prevented whilst enabling effective wastewater treatment and removal of harmful pollutants. This is expected to significantly impact the use of polyacrylamide/acrylate-based synthetic polymers, pushing municipalities and industries (including oil&gas, pulp&paper, textiles, mining) to seek alternative products for their water/wastewater treatment processes, within the next years.
This project will focus on:
• Production and characterisation of novel biopolymers from bacteria utilising waste materials,
• Modification and development of bio-based composites,
• Evaluation of their potential to remove of pollutants in aqueous media,
• Assessment of biopolymers selectivity and investigation of the mechanism of action
Eligibility
• Project start date and duration: start 1st of October or 1st of December 2024 for 36 months.
• Candidates must possess or expect to obtain a 2:1 or first-class degree in Chemical/Environmental Engineering, Biotechnology, or a related discipline.
Funding support
Fully funded studentship, which includes a tax-free stipend of £18,110, is competitively available for home fee eligible students for an October/December 2024 start. Application is also open to international students. Note that the funding associated with this role is awarded via an internal competition and is therefore only confirmed after the admission application is approved.
The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

How to apply

Informal contact can be sent to Dr Konstantina Kourmentza (konstantina.kourmentza@nottingham.ac.uk) before submitting an online application. Please send a cover letter and a copy of your CV with your up to date relevant experience.

Please quote the studentship reference and Dr Konstantina Kourmentza.
When applying for this studentship, please include the reference number (ENG1739) within the personal statement section of the application. This will help in ensuring your application is sent directly to the academic advertising the studentship.

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