Study level

PhD

Master of Philosophy

Honours

Vacation research experience scheme

Faculty/School

Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Biology and Environmental Science

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.

Supervisors

Professor Ian O'Hara
Position
Principal Research Scientist
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Robert Speight
Position
Professor (Microbial Biotechnology)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr James Strong
Position
Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

Overview

There are numerous instances where methane is released into the atmosphere, or wasted as flare gas. Methane mitigation is of global concern, being at least 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Methanotrophs are a unique set of bacteria that are capable of oxidising methane. Environmentally, they are responsible for sequestering an enormous volume of methane released from biological processes, such as anaerobic digestion.

From a biotechnology perspective, they have great potential for generating products, such as nutritional supplements and valuable osmolytes.

This project involves the design of a novel membrane-bound biofilm bioreactor to mitigate methane release, as well as generate commodity products - in particular, ectoine.

Research activities

This project involves:

  • highly-applied research as this technology is needed to mitigate industrial methane emissions (e.g. landfills, natural gas extraction and anaerobic digestion) technology
  • publishable research regarding biofilm and suspended cell culture of Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z in pure and mixed culture.

As part of this research project, you'll develop skills in:

  • reactor design and scale-up to a pilot facility
  • process design fermentation (aerobic methane oxidation)
  • downstream processing and product recovery
  • analysis (GC-MS, HPLC-MS).

Outcomes

We aim to translate academic research into a functional bioreactor system at pilot scale for mitigating methane release. We also aim to produce a biological commodity or niche chemical using methane as the carbon source.

At least two flagship publications in high impact journals are planned.

Skills and experience

An understanding of the following would be beneficial:

  • gas-liquid phase interactions/mass transfer
  • microbial cultivation in liquid media or in biofilms
  • process engineering and biocatalysis.

Scholarships

You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round

Keywords

Contact

Contact Dr James Strong for more information.