Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Renewable feedstocks and biotechnology

Five litre bioreactor filled with green liquidEnvironmental, economic and political pressures demand the development of novel routes to fuels and chemicals from renewable feedstocks to replace current fossil fuel based processes. Economic viability often depends on process integration into the existing manufacturing infrastructure, requiring a significant level of interdisciplinary understanding.

Theme leaders: Professor David Leak, Department of Biology & Biochemistry; Dr Matthew Jones, Department of Chemistry

Industrial partners: Airbus Group; Biosyntha; Green Biologics; Johnson Matthey; Lanzatech; MAST Carbon; SASOL; Sharp Laboratories of Europe


Research areas & leaders

Metabolic engineering for conversion of renewable feedstocks into bulk chemicals

Biology & Biochemistry: Professor Michael Danson, Professor David Leak, Professor Rod Scott
Chemical Engineering: Dr Chris Chuck

Chemical conversion of bio-derived molecules into chemicals

Biology & Biochemistry: Professor David Leak, Professor Rod Scott
Chemical Engineering: Dr Chris Chuck, Professor Davide Mattia, Dr Pawel Plucinski
Chemistry: Dr Steve Bull, Professor Matthew Davidson, Professor Chris Frost, Dr Matthew JonesProfessor Frank Marken

Materials from renewable sources

Chemical Engineering: Professor Davide Mattia, Dr Laura Torrente
Chemistry: Dr Antoine Buchard, Dr Dave Carbery, Professor Matthew Davidson, Dr Matthew Jones, Dr Janet Scott

Major projects & grants

BIOBEADS - Advanced Manufacturing for Sustainable Biodegradable Microbeads

This project will develop, in combination, new manufacturing routes to new products. Manufacturing will be based on a low-energy process that can be readily scaled up, or down, and the products will be biodegradable microbeads, microscapsules and microsponges, which share the performance characteristics of existing plastic microsphere products, but which will leave no lasting environmental trace. Using bio-based materials such as cellulose (from plants) and chitin (from crab or prawn shells), we will use continuous manufacturing methods to generate microspheres, hollow capsules and porous particles to replace the plastic microbeads currently in use in many applications.

Transatlantic discovery, characterization and application of enzymes for the recycling of polymers and composites

This Global Innovation Initiative (GII) project provides a vehicle for developing collaborative research using the strengths of all three partners (University of Bath, Ohio State University and University of São Paulo) and for building research capacity, by developing a mobile cohort of young researchers who are able to work on multi-disciplinary solutions to global challenges.

Bio-derived Feedstocks for Sustainable, UK-Based Manufacture of Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Intermediates

This project aims to establish a range of new technologies to enable the synthesis of a range of chemicals from sugar beet pulp (SBP) in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. The UK is self-sufficient in the production of SBP which is a by-product of sugar beet production (8 million tonnes grown per year) and processing. Currently SBP is dried in an energy intensive process and then used for animal feed. The ability to convert SBP into chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates will therefore have significant economic and environmental benefits.

CLEVER: Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery

Our vision is to enable a move away from the ‘throw-away’ society towards a new paradigm of durability, quality, user engagement with products, and zero-waste; specifically, to close the loop on recycling of consumer electronics and to facilitate recovery of valuable metals.

Fractionation and exploitation of the component value of DDGS

Distiller's dried grain and solubles (DDGS) is made by separating the residue of the wheat grain from wheat-based bioethanol plants, post-fermentation (distillers grain) with a "solubles" syrup created by concentration of the "thin stillage" recovered post-distillation. The project's ultimate aim is to extract fat/oil using supercritical CO2, use the distillers grain in a second fermentation by hydrolysis and microbial metabolism of the non-starch carbohydrates and use some of the protein in biocatalytic upgrading to defined chemical products. In the first stage of the project, where we will be developing methods to extract fat/oil, release and hydrolyse the carbohydrate and selectively metabolise certain protein components, we will benchmark the suitability of the methods by the level of retention of the animal feed value of the residue. In the second part of the programme we will develop new metabolically versatile bacterial strains able to degrade most of the non-starch carbohydrate and convert it to 1-butanol, and selective proteolytic and tandem biocatalytic methods to convert part of the protein to value-added chemical products.

Nano-Integration of Metal-Organic Frameworks and Catalysis for the Uptake and Utilisation of CO2

Nano-scale-integration of CO2 uptake and utilisation processes will provide new highly efficient single-step processes to turn CO2 into useful products (polymers, carbohydrates and fuels). Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as a front-runner in the uptake and storage of CO2. Effective catalysts for the conversion of CO2 into useful chemical products have already been discovered but industrial CO2 waste streams with high CO2 concentrations are used.

In this project these two areas of existing strength are combined to provide new nano-structured functional catalyst membranes tailored to both capture and concentrate CO2 from the free atmosphere and convert CO2 into useful products in a single continuous process.

Terpene-based Manufacturing for Sustainable Chemical Feedstocks

We will develop a sustainable and integrated platform for the manufacture of industrial chemicals based on biological terpenoid feedstocks to complement the carbohydrate, oil and lignin-based feedstocks that will be available to sustainable chemistry-using industries of the future.

Student projects

Student name Title Supervisors Partners
Abeln, Felix (2015-2019) Developing a food-grade high value palm oil substitute from the yeast M. pulcherrima Chuck, Henk  Croda and AB Agri
Bennett, Martyn (2016-2020) Metabolic flux analysis of Parageobacillus thermoglucosidasius for the prediction and analysis of metabolic engineering strategies Leak, Arnot  Corbion; Indian Institute of Technology
Bevon, Elizabeth (2016-2020) Robust Catalysts for the depolymerisation of polyesters Jones, Mattia  University of Aachen
Chapman, Robert (2012-2016) A protecting group free strategy for the sustainable synthesis of polyketide natural products Bull, Plucinski, Jones, Gonzalez (University Jaume I)  
Crean, Rory (2015-2019) Designing a novel biocatalysis platform based on beta-peptide linkages Pudney, Bull University of Stellenbosch
Cunningham, William (2013-2017) Catalytic conversion of Terpene feedstocks into value-added chemicals and commodity pharmaceuticals Bull, Plucinski, Jones, D Patterson University of Stellenbosch
Davey, Chris (2012-2016) Lower energy recovery of dilute organics from fermentation broths D Patterson, Leak LanzaTech
De Groof, Vicky (2016-2020) Anaerobic mixed culture processes for bio-waste valorization Lanham, Arnot, Leak  Wessex Water, GENeco
Donnelley, Joseph (2012-2016) (Bio)catalytic synthesis of a novel transport fuel substitute from industrially produced fermentation products Chuck, Bannister, McManus RWTH Aachen
Elstone, Naomi (2014-2018) Extraction and modification of greener surfactants from natural sources and their use in development of delivery methods for active compounds Edler, Leak, Lewis Unilever
Federle, Stefanie (2016-2020) Bio-based monomers for high performance materials Davidson, Scott, Trask Artis; Isobionics
Gregory, George (2012-2016) Cyclic carbonates from sugars and CO2: synthesis, polymerisation and biomedical applications Buchard, Davidson, Sharma Corbion
Hall, Andrew (2014-2018) Biogenic Alcohols and Sugars as Sustainable Reductants: A Combined Spectroscopic and Theoretical Approach to the Development of New Homogeneous Catalysts for Dehydrogenation, Hydrogen Transfer and Reverse Water-Gas-Shift Chemistry Hintermair, Buchard, Lowe Bruker
Hammond, Oliver (2014-2018) Deep Eutectic Solvents: Structure, Surfactants and Synthesis Edler, Eslava, Bowren STFC
Hicks, Rob (2014-2018) Enhancing lipid production for sustainable production of biofuels using yeast biotechnology and nanobubble engineering to exploit renewable feedstocks Henk, Chuck  AB Agri
Jenkins, Rhodri (2010-2014) Renewable liquid fuels from microbes for aviation and road transport use Chuck, Bannister, Davidson Airbus Group
Johns, Marcus (2012-2016)  Biomaterial substrates for cardiac stem cell engineering Sharma, J Scott, Rahatekar (Bristol) Revolution Fibres
Joyes, Michael (2014-2018) Group 4 Catalysts for Polyethylene Furanoate (PEF) synthesis Davidson, Jones, D Patterson, E Patterson Corbion
Kirk, Sarah (2012-2016) New initiators for the controlled production of copolymers Jones, Ellis RWTH Aachen University
Liang, Jinghui (2016-2020) Tackling carbon catabolite repression and sporulation in Parageobacillus spp. Leak, Bolhuis Corbion
McCormick, Strachan (2015-2019)                    Benign Catalysts for the Production of Renewable plastics Davidson, Buchard, Jones Corbion
McKeown, Paul (2012-2016) Polymerisation of Esters in Supercritical CO2 Davidson, Jones, Hintermair, Howdle (Nottingham) Corbion
Obrien, James C (2013-2017) Processing, Forming and Modifying Cellulose to Produce Materials and Composites with Specific Properties and Tested Biodegradability Scott, Mattia, Torrente, Murray University of Sao Paulo (USP), Ohio State University (OSU)
Parker, Heather (2011-2015) Depolymerized lignin for the aviation and care product sectors – catalyst design and product testing Jones, Chuck Airbus Group
Quilter, Helena (2013-2017) Terpene Derived Monomers for New Polymers Jones, Mattia, Davidson RWTH Aachen University, Stellenbosch University
Rowlandson, Jemma (2013-2017) Development of Innovative Nanoporous Carbons from Renewable Lignin Feedstocks and Investigation of Novel Characterisation Techniques Ting, Edler MAST Carbon, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Sargeant, Lisa (2010-2014) The development of microbial lipids suitable as low temperature fuel feedstock Chuck, R Scott, Davidson,  Airbus Group; Almac
Smith, Tristan (2013-2017) Sustainable production of 2-phenylethanol from Metschnikowia pulcherrima Henk, Chuck Stellenbosch University
Smug, Kasia (2014-2018) New Sustainable Materials for Terpenoid Feedstocks Plucinski, Davidson, Hintermair Sasol; Isobionics
Stalker, Megan (2016-2020) Developing a molecular description of adsorption and solubility of cellulose Parker, Duren, Scott, Grant  UNICAMP; USP
Tibbetts, Josh (2015-2019)  Catalytic transformation and valorization or terpenes and other biorenewables Bull, Martinez-Hernandez, Lewis, Hintermair Stellenbosh University, UNAM (Mexico)
Thomlinson, Isabel (2016-2020) Sequence Control in Synthetic Polymers via Post-Polymerization Stereochemical Resolution Hintermair, Davidson Corbion; Bruker
Thompson, Joe (2012-2016)  New precursors for application in thin film chalcogenide materials Johnson, Wolverson SPECIFIC
Wagner, Jon (2012-2016) Novel materials for catalytic conversion of bio-oils Ting, Weller, Chuck Wessex Water; Airbus Group
Whiffin, Fraeya (2011-2015) Care product emulsions and a palm oil substitute from a yeast cultivated on waste Chuck, D Patterson, Edler, R Scott Unilever
Williams, Luke (2010-2014) Alcohol Dehydrogenases from the thermophile Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius Bull, Danson TMO Renewables