PhD title: Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Supervisors: Prof Alex Conradie and Buddhika Hewakandamby
Although currently, the total CO2 emissions via air transport currently represents just about 4% of global emission, traffic is expected to rise at an annual average rate of 4.5% over the next 20 years.
In the aviation sector, according to IATA fuel consumes about 23% of the operating cost. My research proposal seeks to contribute by investigating the effects of different parameters on bio-jet yield through the simulation and optimization of different conversion technologies. It also seeks to particularly look at generating renewable hydrogen for gasification processes while using sustainable feedstock to produce jet-fuel.This project will provide a better conversion route to aid the commerciality of bio-jet which will lead to a positive competition with conventional jet-fuel.
PhD title: Life Cycle Assessment of Step-Change Technologies for Steel Industry Decarbonisation
Supervisors: Dr Jon McKechnie, and Ioanna Dimitriou.
Supervisors: Prof. Alex V. Conradie and Katalin Kovacs
Industrial fermentations with engineered microorganisms allow us to produce many commodity and specialty chemicals from sugar instead of fossil fuels. Yet sugar feedstocks come with their own problems, particularly the land and energy needed to grow the crops. Fermentations of the future will need flexibility in both their feedstocks and the types of microorganisms used to turn these into useful chemicals. Reza is attempting to engineer the bacterium Cupriavidus necator to overproduce the amino acid arginine using Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering techniques, to see if it can be developed into a strain that can compete with current industrial microorganisms while using alternative feedstocks to sugar such as CO2.
Prior to starting his PhD at Nottingham, Reza studied his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of York, working on projects in structural enzymology towards the use of enzyme catalysts to replace fossil fuel-derived chemical processes.
PhD Title: Enzymatic degradation and functionalization of synthetic polymer waste
Supervisor: Dr Anca Pordea, Cordula Hege and Derek Irvine
The aim of this project is to develop an enzymatic approach to transform polymer waste into high value added material. In particular, the focus will be on the development of chemical and/or enzymatic catalysts to accelerate the degradation of natural and synthetic polymers such as rubber and to further functionalize the degradation products.
The objectives of this study are: (i) To develop an enzymatic oxidative method for the degradation of carbon-carbon polymers and oligomers, (ii) To develop further functionalization approaches of degraded polymer material into specialty/fine chemicals using chemical and/or enzymatic catalysis (iii) To create a sustainable cycle of materials for rubber industry from waste of natural/synthetic rubber to higher value and competitive functions bio-based polymers
PhD title: Materials and Energy requirements for Sustainable Development
Supervisor: Dr Jon McKechnie and Gavin Walker
The aim of the research is to develop quantitative data around materials and energy requirements to achieve sustainable storage on lithium-ion batteries (LiB) for electric vehicles. Scrutinize the performance of various chemistries of current and future LiB under different conditions and analyse their environmental issues associated with complex supply chains.
Determine the feasibility of the implementation of new technologies and evaluate its impact through the use of a Life Cycle Assessment method. Thus, to guide decision-makers to develop more optimal protocols for production and consumption activities.
The target is to utilise materials in which their effect on the environment are lessened throughout the material's life cycle (extraction, processing, production, use-phase, recycling) Comparatively, visualise the sustainable risks and opportunities obtained on the measurements and statistical treatment.
PhD title: Engineering sustainable routes to carbon capture and reusage: Conversion of CO2 from steelworks to coating products.
Supervisor: Dr. Samantha Bryan and Dr Dong-Hyun Kim
The primary objective of this project is to enhance the CO2 utilisation efficiency of cyanobacteria, coupled with dynamic regulation to redirect metabolic flux towards increased host strain productivity. Engineered strains will be subject to metabolomic characterisation (metabolic phenotyping) using liquid chromatography (LC)-mass spectrometry (MS)-based methods to estimate intra and extracellular metabolic fluxes, allowing for the development of a designer strains with improved productivity.
These designer strains will then be characterised in continuous fermentation in collaboration with the project’s industrial partner Cyanetics, allowing development of a representative cultivation strategy. This project integrates biophysical characterisation, LC-MS-based metabolic profiling and flux analysis synthetic biology, and process development and optimisation in bench scale photobioreactors.
PhD title: Technical and economic assessment of process integration in gasoline production.
Supervisors: Prof. Alex V. Conradie, Dr Begum Tokay, and Dr Paul Langston
We propose a superstructure framework of a chemical process design considering economic criteria. By inserting process catalysts and separation technologies including dynamic system unit, namely, moving bed adsorption, and energy-efficient designs on an evolutionary hybrid optimisation model, techno-economic assessment is calculated and then optimized employing genetic algorithm (GA) method.
The algorithm selects the best process design considering different operating conditions, process pathways, catalysts, and energy-efficient units with respect to the economic feasibility of each alternative. We applied the method on a case study of gasoline production through isomerisation process. The isomerisation process superstructure platform was simulated in HYSYS®-MATLAB® hybrid model. Applying our approach to the proposed process has a positive impact on the economic criteria as well as reducing energy consumption.
PhD title: Biological Recycling of Polyethylene
Supervisors: Samantha Bryan, Luisa Ciano and Anca Pordea
PhD title: Structure-guided optimisation of a biotechnologically relevant artificial metalloenzyme
Supervisors: Dr Anca Pordea, Dr Christof Jaeger and Ingrid Dreveny
Artificial metalloenzymes (ArMs) combine the advantages of chemical and biological catalysts, making them of great interest for biotechnological application. By protein scaffold incorporation of a metallocofactor, ArMs display enzymatic selectivity and rate enhancement combined with chemical catalyst reaction scope.
Key to chemogenetic optimisation is improved structural understanding of ArM component interactions. Here, we focus on ArM engineering for the production of commercially valuable chiral amines and alcohols. Using crystallographic and computational approaches to probe structures and interactions, we strive for two main objectives: Increased efficiency of our current ArM system; Proof of concept for structure-based ArM optimisation.
PhD title: Bio-renewable chemicals from C1 gases: Assessing the technical and financial viability of bioconversion processes
Supervisors: Dr Jon McKechnie, Prof Alex Conradie, Dr Fanran Meng and Stephen Poulston
PhD Title: Computer-aided rational design for transaminase stability
Supervisors: Dr Christof Jaeger and Ingrid Dreveny
Transaminase enzymes (TAs) have achieved some success as biocatalysts but are subject to limited stability under process conditions. Some evidence suggests that TAs which adopt a larger quaternary structure might offer a naturally more stable enzyme to engineer for biocatalytic applications.
However, it is not clear what determines the size of the quaternary structure, either in terms of the TAs themselves or in terms of the solvent conditions. My objective is to better understand the relationship between these things, using crystallographic and biophysical information, with the further aim of using computer-aided rational design to develop TAs with improved stability.
PhD title: A sustainable route to high value terpenoid production in cyanobacteria.
Supervisors: Prof Alex Conradie and Dr. Samantha Bryan
PhD title: Exploring the potential of cyanobacteria to produce ‘Extracellular Polymeric Substances (EPS)
Supervisors: Prof Alex Conradie, Dr Konstantina (Nadia) Kourmentza and Dr Yanming Wang
Cyanobacteria are promising microorganisms for sustainable, carbon-neutral production of food, chemicals, fuels and (bio)materials due to their minimal use of resources such as carbon dioxide and light. These photosynthetic organisms naturally produce a variety of products of potential economic value. One group of products are extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that appear to have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer activities. The PhD project aims to attain a carbon-neutral, economical production process of EPS with cyanobacteria. The research includes screening of different cyanobacteria strains regarding their EPS production and optimization of cultivation conditions and upscaling of the most promising strain
PhD title: SCP as a sustainable link between food industry and greenhouse gas remediation
Supervisors: Prof Alex Conradie,
Single cell protein (SCP) offers a unique opportunity to eliminate the use of fishmeal (FM) in aquaculture diets.
The aim of this project is to develop a new, sustainable and economically viable protein source for fish feeding, integrating carbon dioxide capture and utilization (CCU) with bacterial SCP production.
Although the protein content of bacterial cells is nutritionally valuable, bacteria do not natively produce omega 3 fatty acids which is an essential part of the diet for salmon and trout. Using advanced metabolic engineering techniques our goal is to maximally approach the FM composition, while testing the novel U-loop reactor to scale-up gas fermentation process maximising the efficient use of capital.
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