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Name of scholarship/program

Optimising Phosphate recovery from waste water using photosynthetic aquatic organisms.



Important description
Sustainability in both agriculture and energy are important issues for the 21st century. Agricultural production depends upon application of fertilisers to achieve high yields but rock phosphate is a limited resource, its processing to fertiliser is energy intensive and environmentally damaging, and waste water from both agricultural and urban processes contain levels of Phosphorus (primarily as phosphate) and Nitrogen that can lead to eutrophication of water bodies.

There is a pressing need to develop and optimise low cost, robust and low maintenance systems for using wastewater to produce biomass which can subsequently be used for animal feed, N &P recovery or biofuel. A fixed bed of a mixed culture of naturally occurring algae has been shown to be capable of high P removal rates per unit area in warmer climates and hence, there is potential for seasonal use of that technology in the UK. A test system will be designed and built as part of the project. The biochemistry and biodiversity of these systems is highly complex and the project will investigate the performance and optimisation of the test system for N & P recovery. The student will access the test system to gather data on performance ( e.g nutrient levels) and to sample the flora present at specific time points. Molecular taxonomy methods using DNA barcodes will be used to provide an overview of the species present at the sampling times and how the species community composition changes over the seasons and how this relates to the removal of N&P and production of biomass. As an alternative system to provide a comparison, we will investigate duckweed (Lemnaceae) ponds and use recently published bar coding techniques to identify those species associated with high N &P uptake. Field studies will be complemented by lab scale growth experiments under more controlled conditions. The field work will focus on the practical development of systems to maximise both biomass production and N&P uptake at minimum cost. Data from lab and field trials will be used as input for a techno-economic model which will lead to ideotypical designs for best available techniques not involving excessive cost (BATNEEC) processes. The mechanisms of N&P uptake and the potential for its manipulation will be studied under N&P sufficient and deficient conditions in laboratory scale cultivation trials.

This BBSRC funded 4 year industrial CASE studentship between the Schools of Biology and Civil Engineering at the University of Leeds and the SME Carbogen presents a unique and exciting opportunity to participate in a project that spans laboratory and field based research and seeks to translate results into a potentially commercially viable solution for nutrient removal from waste water. It will encompass aspects of molecular bioscience, analytical chemistry, field based sampling and engineering design. We do not expect applicants to have experience of all these disciplines and the supervisory team will provide training and support as required. The successful applicant will possess a minimum of a 2.1 honours degree in an appropriate scientific or engineering discipline and be excited about the possibility of operating in a multidisciplinary environment to develop sustainable technologies with commercial application. S/he must be adaptable and willing to operate outside of their comfort zone, undertaking to learn a range of new techniques. S/he must be able to carry out exacting, precise analytical work in the laboratory but also enjoy working outdoors. A clean driving license is essential and access to own transport, although not essential, would be advantageous.


Eligibility and other criteria
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.


Application deadline
*26 April 2013


Additional information, and important URL
The studentship is available to home and EU students who meet the residence criteria for BBSRC funding and covers fees at the home/EU rate and an annual stipend of £13,726 pa. The project includes a mandatory minimum 3 month placement at Carbogen (Brigg, North Lincolnshire) where exposure to the business environment and regulatory aspects of the water industry will gained.


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