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PhD Studentship: From Waste to Resource: Opportunities, Challenges and Economic Viability of Biorefineries in South Africa

University of Nottingham - Chemistry

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Nottingham
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,622 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 21st June 2024
Closes: 14th July 2024
Reference: SCI280

Prof Trevor Farren and Dr Luisa Ciano

Application deadline: 14/07/2024

Starting date: Oct 2024 (or as soon as possible thereafter)

Funded PhD project (UK students only)

Project description

Finding alternatives to fossil fuels is an imperative of modern society. Biomass waste, such as waste from crop productions or cuttings of invasive species, offers a sustainable and renewable source of energy. In this context, South Africa and other countries around the world are fighting a constant battle against invasive species which impact local agriculture, biodiversity and resources.1 Currently, the main solution is to either harvest and burn such species, or to chemically prevent their growth.2 However, their rapid growth and spread makes them an attractive option for valorisation of this waste material, for example for production of biofuels and other potentially valuable chemicals. Nevertheless, there are techno-economic challenges in biofuel production, which are increased when the socio-economic background and specific needs and limitations of the communities involved are considered. 

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the economic viability of bioethanol production in South Africa using local invasive species and waste materials. Building up from previous studies and analyses reported in the literature and done within our groups, the successful candidate will carry out an extensive review of various business models, in particular those developed in the biorefinery industry in Brazil, with a focus on local distribution and benefits for the local communities. Experiments to assess glucose yields using a variety of pre-treatment methods, enzymatic cocktails and reaction conditions will also be carried out over the course of the project to support the development of a potential business model.

This project will provide extensive training in enzymatic polysaccharide degradation and biofuel production, analytical techniques (e.g. MS, chromatography), and business model development. 

Applications are invited from students with background in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering or related discipline, having a strong interest in sustainable chemistry and business. Starting date for the project will be October 2024, or as soon as possible thereafter. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Luisa Ciano (luisa.ciano@nottingham.ac.uk) and/or Prof Trevor Farren (trevor.farren@nottingham.ac.uk) for more details or enquiries about the project. 

Formal applications should include CV, cover letter and academic transcripts, and should be sent via email to Dr Luisa Ciano and made online through the University of Nottingham’s online application system, indicating “Chemistry” for the School and “Dr Luisa Ciano” as the supervisor. 

Funding notes

Fully funded studentship to commence in October 2024. UK students only – tuition fees paid and full stipend, tax-free, for 42 months at the RCUK rate (currently £18,622 per annum). International students will be considered only if they hold a scholarship to cover the international fees.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have, or expected to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree in Chemistry or a related subject. A MChem/MSc-4-year integrated Master’s, a BSc + MSc or a BSc with substantial research experience will be highly advantageous. Experience in one or more of the following will also be beneficial (but not essential): sustainable chemistry, biocatalysis or chemical engineering.

If English is not the candidate’s first language, they must provide evidence before the beginning of the studentship that they meet the University minimum English Language requirements (IELTS 6.0 with at least 5.5 in each element).

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