PhD Positions in Value-addition of Glycerol into Bio-hydrogen, Canada

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PhD Position: Value-addition of glycerol into bio-hydrogen using mono and co-cultures
Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique

The pending global energy crisis is stimulating the quick growth of biodiesel manufacturing. However, biodiesel production cost is increasing due to the accumulation of glycerol as a byproduct. With a ton of biodiesel produced, the process theoretically yields 100 kg of glycerol as a byproduct. The crude glycerol (contaminated glycerol) from biodiesel production is usually contaminated with water, methanol, soap, oil, and biodiesel from the process.

These contaminants give complications of converting glycerol by traditional chemistry methods and thus limits its further use in the pharmaceutical and/cosmetic industry. Clearly, the development of processes to convert crude glycerol into higher value products is both an urgent need and a `target of opportunity` for the development of biorefineries. Such technologies could be readily integrated into existing biodiesel facilities, thus establishing true biorefineries and revolutionizing the biodiesel industry by dramatically improving its economics.

Hydrogen is the most promising in the succession of fuel evolution, with several technical, socio-economic and environmental benefits to its credit. It has the highest energy content per unit weight of any known fuel (142 kJ/g) and can be transported for domestic/industrial consumption through conventional means. However, today, biological H2 production processes are becoming important mainly due to two reasons: utilization of renewable energy resources, and usually operated at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure. In fact, fermentative hydrogen production has the advantages of rapid hydrogen production rate and simple operation. Moreover, it can use various organic wastes as substrate for fermentative hydrogen production, what is of great significance because it can not only treat organic wastes, but also produce very clean energy.

An effective alternative is the use of such low-grade quality glycerol as fermentation substrate, e.g. for the biological production of hydrogen. Given the highly reduced nature of carbon in glycerol and the cost of anaerobic processes, fermentative metabolism of glycerol is of special interest concerning the economic viability. Fermentation with E. aerogenes and Clostridium butyricum could convert pure glycerol to hydrogen with the higher conversion and higher content of hydrogen in gas product compared to the fermentation with mixed culture microorganism. In order to do a comparison, pure culture of the two different strains and also the mixed microbial flora from anaerobic sludge digesters. The protein and other sources for the growth of the microorganisms will be supplemented using other industry wastes, such as brewery wastewater and others.

Research Area:
The main research directions will include production of biohydrogen in laboratory scale flasks, eventual fermentation in bench scale fermentors, strategies to improve production of biohydrogen via physical-chemical treatment, nutrient amendment by other industry wastes, utilization of mono-cultures and mixed consortia and techno-economic analysis of the process.

Master`s in chemical engineering/biochemical engineering/biochemistry/chemistry or related discipline. Practical experience in the field of microbiology, fermentation techniques, chromatography analysis, mass spectrometry and/or molecular biology is an asset. Computer knowledge preferably includes programming skills and experience with different statistical techniques is an advantage. Candidates should be proficient in English and French.

Contact address : S.K. Brar
Assistant Professor
INRS-ETE Univ. Quebec
490, rue de la Couronne
Quebec, G1K 9A9 (CANADA)

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the above information is current and correct. However, applicants should contact the appropriate administering body before making an application, as details do change frequently.


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