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Manufacturing biomineralised materials with controlled mechanical and structural properties

Project ID: 2228cd1280 (You will need this ID for your application)

Under Offer

Research Theme: Advanced Materials

UCL Lead department: Chemical Engineering

Department Website

Lead Supervisor: Diego Lopez Barreiro

Project Summary:

Biopolymers have a propensity towards molecular self-assembly that underpins their ability in Nature to generate functional materials with remarkable performance. One of the most fascinating examples of that are biomineralised materials such as nacre, bones, or diatom exoskeletons. Those materials display very interesting properties (e.g, a hierarchically organised structure, dynamic responsiveness, environmental adaptability) that are achieved thanks to the synergistic action of protein-based biopolymeric scaffolds and living cells. Importantly, they achieve those properties while assembling at ambient conditions and in aqueous environments. This has motivated research in human-made biomineralised materials for applications including bone regeneration, protective garments, or self-healing concrete. However, it remains challenging to manufacture human-made biomineralised materials that replicate the features of their natural counterparts. In this project, you will develop biomineralised materials from minerals like silica or hydroxyapatite. You will seek to unveil the mechanisms that allow to control on demand their mechanical and structural properties. This will be approached by developing scaffolds assembled from recombinant protein biopolymers with biomineralising peptide sequences; or by developing engineered living materials that incorporate microbial cells in the scaffold that trigger biomineralisation on demand. The project will be carried out in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and within the vibrant environment of the Manufacturing Futures Lab at the UCL East campus in London. You should have a first-class UK honours degree or equivalent at MSc level in (bio)chemical engineering, bioengineering, materials science, or related fields. Experience with hydrogels, bioprocess engineering, materials characterisation, or basic molecular biology techniques such as cloning in E. coli, is desirable. In this project, you will gain experience in recombinant biopolymer production and a range of materials characterisation techniques. You will also attend international conferences, publish the outcomes of the project, and interact with colleagues at UCL and beyond to disseminate your work.