Surfactants are chemicals that adsorb at the interface of a liquids, allowing it to foam or penetrate a solid. Surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulphate have a range of domestic and industrial applications, such as detergents. Consequently, surfactants represent a significant component of human wastewater, yet their removal by wastewater treatment plants is inefficient. In inland waters, microbial life is dominated by biofilms attached to surfaces and aggregates (“river snow”) suspended in the water column.
There is growing interest from the chemical industry regarding the potential of biosurfactants to provide environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical detergents. Biosurfactants are capable of being biologically degraded, and tend to have lower toxicity to aquatic fauna. In addition, given their capacity to influence biofilm structure, biosurfactants exhibit potential as antifouling treatments for boat hulls and submerged structures.
We are seeking a student to investigate how biosurfactants affect the structure and functioning of complex aquatic biofilms. The project will seek to elucidate how chemical and biological surfactants affect:
i)the formation and structure of streambed biofilms,
ii)interactions between streambed biofilms and suspended microbial aggregates within streamwater
iii)biofilm metabolism and carbon cycling.
For more information: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/find-a-phd/342056