Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Category: Standard Studentships

Engineering enzymes for the deconstruction of waste polyester textiles

Project No. 2355


Primary Supervisor

Prof Andy Pickford – University of Portsmouth


Prof Tobias von der Haar – University of Kent


Novel means of recycling end-of-life polyesters are required if we are to convert the current, linear textile economy into a circular one with a reduced reliance on fossil-based feedstocks.

Natural polymers are commonplace in all kingdoms of life, and for every natural polymer, there exists a natural enzyme that can deconstruct it back into its constituent building blocks. These deconstructing enzymes give circularity to life; the building blocks are reused with nothing going to waste. This project will develop enzyme-based technology for the breakdown of waste polyester textiles into their chemical building blocks for subsequent reuse in a circular bioeconomy. We will develop robust enzymes that can deconstruct the most commonly-used polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in waste textiles, tolerating the challenges that this feedstock poses, namely its toughness and the presence of dyes and additives. The research will establish the feasibility of using enzymes to deconstruct the PET in waste textiles into a soup of simple building blocks for conversion back into new polyesters, thus circularising the existing linear economy, and reducing the need to produce virgin PET from oil and gas.

This studentship opportunity would particularly suit someone with a background in biochemistry, biotechnology, biophysics or organic chemistry. All necessary training will be provided, including in enzyme engineering, microbial enzyme expression, fermentation, chromatography, biocalorimetry, chemical analysis and bioreactor-based PET depolymerisation. The project will be supervised by Prof Andy Pickford, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Prof Tobias von der Haar, University of Kent. The CEI combines state-of-the-art facilities and world-leading expertise to not only drive forward scientific breakthroughs, but also provide the capacity and capability for translating that new knowledge into real-world solutions. For more information about our science, please visit the CEI webpage at: