From waste to resource: Training young researchers on developing innovative, circular solutions for wastewater treatment sludge - INCLUE

DC11: Holistic sensing of pollutants and ecotoxicity in treated sludge

Project title: Holistic sensing of pollutants and ecotoxicity in treated sludge (WP3)

Host Institution: University of Glasgow

Country: Great Britain

Supervisor: William Peveler (PhD promoter); Co-supervisors: Raf Dewil (KU LEUVEN), David du Pasquier (WATCHFROG)

Objectives: to design and develop biosensing technologies that can rapidly assess the potential bacterial toxicity of treated sludge, and may in turn act as tools for better understanding the efficacy and applicability of different treatment regimens and different sludge sources.

Associated DC (DC11) will design and construct a sensor array capable of detecting key pollutants (with a focus on heavy metals, pesticides and PFAS) in both untreated and treated sludges. associated DC (DC11) will employ high throughput targeted and un-targeted or ‘fingerprinting’ approaches for rapid toxicity assessment. Associated DC (DC11) will test the developed sensor approach for assessing the impact of treatment regimens and sludge sources. Associated DC (DC11) will benchmark the efficacy and sensitivity of such a biosensor tool on a range of samples from project partners with ‘gold standard’ techniques. Associated DC (DC11) will link the output of the sensor tool with bacterial and wider ecotoxicity. Associated DC (DC11) will employ a range of molecular synthesis and engineering techniques (to link molecules and nanoparticles) alongside a wide range of analytical tools (e.g., fluorometric & colorimetric tests, plasmonic chips) and multivariate statistical analysis techniques, with the potential to undertake machine learning.

Expected Results: Biosensor array, capable of both detecting and differentiating various heavy metals, PFAS and pesticides commonly found in sludge and assess bacterial toxicity effects in sludges.

Enrolment in Doctoral degree(s): University of Glasgow, College of Science and Engineering Doctoral School (GB)

Planned secondments:

  • KU Leuven (Sup.: R. Dewil): M12-15 (4 months): Understanding the source and handling principles of the samples, insights in the kinetics of plasma treatment and formation of (inhibitory) PFAS-degradation products and establishment of the gold-standard techniques that are used to analyse them.
  • Watchfrog (Sup.: D. du Pasquier): M20-23 (4 months): Insight and investigation into other measures of ecotoxicity and comparison of benchmark data across different test samples.

Candidate requirements:
  • You hold a master’s degree in chemistry or related molecular sciences, and you have a good knowledge of how to make and modify molecules.
  • You understand the principles of analytical chemistry, how to probe molecular structure and supramolecular interactions.
  • You are well organised and can work collaboratively with others in diverse and multidisciplinary research environment.
  • You can speak and write fluent English and have excellent communication skills
  • You are enthusiastic and motivated to undertake laboratory research, are ready to participate in personal training, international travel and development activities.
  • You have demonstrated your commitment to high quality research.