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Apatite Biomineralization Technologies for Waste Treatment

There is growing research interest in exploiting biologically-mediated mineral precipitation to develop new methods for nuclear waste treatment. This PhD project will investigate using bacterial apatites to remove radionuclides, such as 3H and 36Cl from gaseous and aqueous waste streams.

Number of places

one

Funding

Home fee, Stipend

Opens

2 May 2018

Eligibility

Normally, to be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

The applicant will hold, or be in the process of obtaining, a Bachelors or integrated Masters degree or equivalent in Microbiology, Chemistry, Environmental Engineering or other discipline related to the proposed research.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Project Details

There is a rapidly growing research interest in exploiting biologically-mediated mineral precipitation to develop new methods for nuclear decommissioning, remediation and waste treatment. Microbes can produce metal phosphate biominerals, including apatites. Phosphate biomineralisation has been successfully used to remove radionuclides from wastewaters, and apatites show promise as ion exchange/sorbent materials for treatment of radioactive waste waters.

Apatite minerals can sorb a range of contaminant metals and radionuclides and have been used in remediation technologies (for example, permeable reactive barriers); however, most studies and technologies have used derived from bone. There has been little research into the use of microbially-generated apatites. Recent studies by researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Strathclyde have shown that a microbial hydroxyapatite, has a significantly higher sorption capacity than commercial hydroxyapatite for the problematic radionuclides Sr(II) and Co(II). In addition, the bacterial apatite is more stable to dissolution than its chemical counterpart. 

Ongoing research at Strathclyde is seeking to develop new waste processing technologies for graphite and other carbon-based radioactive wastes. The overall aim is to develop a treatment process coupling smouldering of the wastes with biomineral immobilization of radionuclides from the gaseous and ash waste residues. This PhD project will investigate using bacterial apatites to remove radionuclides, such as 3H, 36Cl and 129I from gaseous and aqueous waste streams. The successful candidate will work in the biomineralisation group in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

The project is linked to ongoing research programmes with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre (ANRC). In addition, the input from the ANRC industry partners into the project will provide the student with insight into practical application of the research and relevance in the wider industry context, and networking opportunities. The student will also be supported to attend conferences, providing the opportunity to develop further their communication skills and disseminate their research.

Funding Details

Applicants must be a UK student.