PhD Project - Green Chemistry Biocatalysis: Plastics degradation byenzymes

Job Description

Project Description There is a need for methods to hasten the degradation of persistent plastics in the environment. The gradual phasing out of traditional consumer plastics is occurring. A new generation of bioplastics are rapidly gaining ground. Worldwide production of polylactide (PLA), for example, has more than trebled in the last few years. Polylactide is a persistent plastic that despite its biodegradability can persist in landfill for many years due to low numbers of PLA degrading organisms in soils. The need for enhancement of this process is evident. Similar enhancements are required for other biodegradable plastics. Specific hydrolytic enzymes are an attractive solution. Critically, this route allows the recovery of plastic monomers and the reusing of these monomers to synthesise new plastics or other materials of value. We recently reported the 3D structure of a novel cutinase (AML) with plastic degrading activity. The specificity of this enzyme was unusual in degrading certain plastics such as polybutylene succinate (PBS) and polycaprolactone (PCL). However, it did not degrade PLA. Lipases capable of PLA degradation are known. This leads to the exciting prospect of being able to degrade mixed plastic waste. Thus, treatment with one enzyme (AML) would allow for the degradation of PBS/PCL while another would degrade PLA and so on. The prospect of being able to catalyse the sequential degradation of mixed waste (without the need for waste segregation) is highly attractive for a host of industrial uses. It allows for speed of degradation, recovery of monomers, treatment of mixed waste (without need for segregation) and for use of recovered monomers as building blocks for further plastics synthesis. All with virtually no environmental impact. Applications in delayed release drug delivery can also be envisaged.

Student Requirements for this Project A degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biotrechnology or equivalent ideally with experience of biocatalysis.

Application Deadline 01/06/2023

If you are interested in submitting an application for this project, please complete an Expression of Interest.

TU Dublin research centre Greenway Hub

PhD Project Fully Funded (scholarship, fees, materials) Funding agency Science Foundation Ireland Student Stipend per annum € 17,250-23,000 Materials & Travel Budget per annum € 4,000 Fees covered by the funding Duration of funding 48 months