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Utilisation of waste biomass for the production of a novel biobased biopolymer

Principal Supervisor: Dr Guy Barker School of Life Sciences

Co-supervisor: Kerry Kirwan (WMG)

PhD project title: Utilisation of waste biomass for the production of a novel biobased biopolymer

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

The three major constituents of lignocellulose are cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which are composed of an abundance of valuable aromatic structures. In order to isolate such constitutive components from lignocellulosic biomass pre-treatment steps are required in order to make subsequent enzymatic digestion efficient. Currently such pretreatments are expensive due to the cost of the energy or chemicals used. Developing a cost effective approach remains a major challenge for the development of a biobased economy.

In nature fungi are the principle agents of lignocellulose degradation. Both enzymatic and non-enzymatic processes are utilized by fungi to convert biomass.

A number of enzymes have been isolated and cloned from lignocellulosic degrading fungi have been isolated however it is unclear how the fungi breakdown the lignocelluose. Development of process which allows the production of aromatic structures useful for polymer synthesis would offer a route for the production of novel biopolymers of industrial relevance.

The project will involve developing recombinant enzymes and optimising their use as well as developing methodologies for purification of products and testing their efficacy as biopolymers. This will involve an interdisciplinary approach between life sciences, chemistry and engineering.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Bioenergy and Industrial biotechnology

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • Genomic sequencing and Bioinformatics
  • Molecular cloning
  • Protein purification and western blotting
  • Fungal Culture
  • Extraction and Purification
  • Bioploymer production and testing

Contact: Dr Guy Barker, University of Warwick