PhD Position: Sustainable bioelectrochemical process for the degradation of halogenated “forever chemicals” (LGC Toulouse, France)

Starting date: 1st October 2024
Contract duration: 3 years
Funding : INP Toulouse
Doctoral School : Mécanique, énergétique, génie civil, procédés (MEGEP)

Keywords: bioelectrochemical processes, water treatment, micropolluants, microorganisms, biofilms, electrochemistry, analytical chemistry

Organic micropollutants (MPs) are mainly man-made contaminants that can have toxic effects on living organisms at very low concentrations. MPs are contained in cosmetics, medicines, plant protection products and cleaning products, etc.: MPs are ubiquitous. They are found in wastewaters, surface waters and drinking water, with a direct impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health. In 2021 in France, it was estimated that around 147 tons of MPs were contained in the 5 billion cubic meters of treated water from wastewater treatment plants. Among the most widespread MPs, halogenated compounds are particularly problematic because of their recalcitrance and toxicity. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFASs), are well known for their remarkable chemical stability, even earning them the title of “forever chemicals”. The aim of this PhD is to develop a bioelectrochemical system for the selective degradation of halogenated MPs prior to a coupling with conventional biological treatments.

Bioelectrochemical systems are based on the development of electroactive microbial biofilms on the surface of electrodes. These low-energy processes are of interest for the selective degradation of organic compounds (including halogenated compounds) using microbial populations growing on the surface of the electrodes and that can be enriched directly from the environment. During this PhD, various halogenated MPs of increasing recalcitrance will be considered, with PFASs as final targets. The emphasis will be on understanding the mechanisms involved in the degradation of these MPs by electroactive biofilms, in order to identify the advantages and limitations of the process, particularly in the perspective of its integration into conventional processes. Indeed, a large part of the project will also be devoted to the detection and quantification of the selected MPs and of and their by-products.

The research will be carried out at the Chemical Engineering Laboratory (LGC, ENSIACET site) within the Bioprocesses and Microbial Systems department (BioSyM). The team is specialized in water treatment and microbial electrochemical technologies for environmental applications for almost 20 years, and offers all the analytical and experimental resources required to carry out this project.

Profile: We are looking for a highly motivated, curious and autonomous candidate owing a Master degree or equivalent in chemical/environmental engineering, with an interest for electrochemistry, microbial ecology and/or analytical chemistry.

Application: To apply for this position, please send a cover letter along with a detailed CV to the contacts below before April 12th 2024.

Institution contact information

Laboratoire de Génie Chimique de Toulouse, France

Claire Albasi, CNRS Research Director, LGC, INP-T , +33 6 62 17 64 65

Jean-Marie Fontmorin, CNRS Researcher, LGC, INP-T, +33 5 34 32 37 29

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