Dr Yongqiang Liu – University of Southampton
Dr Mark Shepherd – University of Kent
Succinic acid is an important platform chemical and has been identified as one of the top potential chemical building blocks for the future.
Succinic acid is currently manufactured mainly by petrochemical processes. A move from fossil fuel to renewable raw materials for sustainable development has been started for succinic acid fermentation towards a biobased economy. However, the bioproduction of succinic acid is mainly restricted to conventional feedstock with a batch operation mode at the moment, resulting in low productivity and feedstock competition for food. To explore the economic and environmental feasibility of succinic acid bioproduction with widely available biomass waste, the key technical challenges such as inhibition from biomass hydrolysate and low productivity have to be overcome. Given the aggregation characteristics of some organic acid-producing species such as Actinobacillus succinnogenes for succinic acid production under some conditions, this project aims to explore the aggregation potential of Actinobacillus succinnogenes and develop either attached biofilm or self-aggregated microbial granules for continuous bioproduction of succinic acid from hydrolysate of biomass waste. The inhibition from hydrolysate and succinic acid in fermentation broth could be alleviated due to the three-dimensional structure formed by cell attachment to support or self-aggregation. Furthermore, this biofilm-based technology can not only retain higher biomass in reactors but also enable continuous fermentation with improved productivity. Apart from biofilm-based process development for continuous fermentation of succinic acid, the analysis of energy performance and CO2 fixation in the succinic acid production process will be carried out in this project for the comparison with conventional suspended cells based batch fermentation with glucose as well as the evaluation of the environmental sustainability of the newly developed process.
This project would suit candidates with a strong degree in Biotechnology, Bioengineering, Biochemical Engineering, Biology, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, or closely related disciplines. If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Yongqiang Liu (Y.Liu@soton.ac.uk).