DD03: Development of novel bio-based polymeric materials for environmentally high value applications

Supervisory Team

Dr Iza Radecka and Professor Marek Kowalczuk, School of Biology, Chemistry & Forensic Science

Project Description

Naturally-occurring bacterial polymers have an enormous potential as they can be produced from renewable biogenic resources under well controlled conditions and they are efficiently biodegraded. Moreover, their expected impact is not simply limited to alleviate the environmental problems inevitably associated with their production, but also in reducing dependency on fossil-fuel based thermoplastic polymers.

The ultimate goal of this proposal is to develop and improve the properties of polyhydroxyalkanotaes (PHA), produced from bacterial strains capable of growth on inexpensive, eco-sustainable feedstock with potential application also as biomaterials. PHAs are natural, renewable and biodegradable polymers, produced in bacterial cells. They can be made into plastics materials with properties that are similar to petrochemical plastics and can replace these materials in many applications.  Current applications of PHA based polymers or composites include the packaging industry, medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, food industry.

This project will be directed towards new inexpensive (wastes) source of carbon for the synthesis of novel biopolymers in order to reduce the cost of production. The second goal will be to obtain biopolymers free from any bioorganic elements that could denature during its thermal processing, leading to complications in production as well as the emergence of harmful or toxic products. Control of the purity will be done at each stage to develop an effective method of obtaining a polymer with properties required for medical applications.

The project will combine applied industrial microbiology and materials science research. A wide variety of techniques will be employed. These will include fermentation technology for PHA production and investigation of their chemical properties and their molecular structure by NMR, GPC, FTIR, DSC, XRD, ICP and GC-MS.


  • Keshavarz, T. & Roy, I. (2010). Polyhydroxyalkanoates: bioplastics with a green agenda. Current Opinion in Microbiology, 13, 321-326.
  • Koller, M., Niebelschütz, H. & Braunegg, G. (2013). Strategies for recovery and purification of poly[(R)-3-hydroxyalkanoates] (PHA) biopolyesters from surrounding biomass. Engineering in Life Sciences, 13, 549-562.
  • Verlinden, R. A. J., Hill, D. J., Kenward, M. A., Williams, C. D. & Radecka, I. (2007). Bacterial synthesis of biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 102, 1437-1449.
  • Verlinden R. A. J., Hill D. J., Kenward M. A., Williams C. D. Piotrowska-Seget Z and  Radecka, I  (2011): Production of polyhydroxyalkanoates from waste frying oil by Cupriavidus necator. AMB Express.  1(1):11. doi: 10.1186/2191-0855-1-1


We welcome applications at any time from self-funded students that are well qualified and highly motivated. Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent with a biosciences, chemical engineering, bioengineering, biotechnology or chemistry background and be interested in interdisciplinary research. Applicants whose entry award was not delivered in English, or non-native speaker of English shall be required to demonstrate proficiency in English at least to the level of an IELTS score of 7.0 or its equivalent.

How to apply

Complete the Research Project Application Form (Word doc 679k) and email to RIHS@wlv.ac.uk.

See Guidance for the Completion of the Research Project Application Form (Word doc 23k) for details.

For more information

For an informal discussion please contact Dr Iza Radecka or Professor Marek Kowalczuk by email (I.Radecka@wlv.ac.uk  or  M.Kowalczuk@wlv.ac.uk )