Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth

Category: Standard Studentships

Feedstock to fuel….but how?

Project No. 2456


Primary Supervisor

Dr Gary Robinson – University of Kent


Dr Yue Zhang – University of Southampton

Dr Mark Shepherd – University of Kent


Clean, low cost biotechnology that is focused on renewable resources must fulfil one or both of the following criteria:

(a) Attenuating waste or adding value to a renewable waste / feedstock
(b) Accessing an (existing) market that will receive the bio-product.
Unlike high-value, low volume biotechnology (e.g. recombinant protein production) the biotechnology of renewables is low-value, high volume. As such, the margins from feedstock to product are very small and susceptible to feedstock supply fluctuations (e.g. cost, quality and availability).

The project will compare and contrast 2 processes (solvent production [i.e. producing bioethanol and other solvents] and anaerobic digestion [AD], each using the same feedstock but differing in their commercial maturity, evidenced by approx. 700 operational AD plants in the UK.
In collaboration with Soton the project will investigate / undertake the following:
(i) Audit of (waste) feedstocks that supply the AD plant over the year (i.e. composition and heterogeneity), presence of valuable sub-streams.
(ii) Characterisation of AD microbiota – versus time, feedstock to assess diversity and robustness
(iii) Construction of lab scale AD plant to assess CH4 yield v characterised and augmented feedstocks.
(iv) Techno-economic evaluation of the AD v solventogenic processes taking into account start-up ands scale-up costs to underpin centralised and decentralised processes.

Candidate qualities – biotechnologist / bioscientist / (chemical) engineer.

Skills – microbiology, molecular biology, analytical (bio)chemistry, bioprocessing, commercial awareness and modelling