”la Caixa” Foundation grants 30 fellowships for researchers of any nationality who wish to pursue a doctorate in a STEM discipline at research centres of excellence in Spain or Portugal.

Deadline: 24 January 2024, at 2 pm Peninsular Spain


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Oleochemicals from organic wastes: media conditioning by activated carbons as key factor for efficient microbial oils production

Life Sciences Panel
Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, Pharmaceuticals, Food Technology
Dr. Elia Tomás
Research Project / Research Group Description

Microbial oils are a suitable alternative to petroleum-based chemistry. In the last decades, most of the advances on microbial oils have been made in the fuel industry. However, the emergence of oleaginous microorganisms able of consuming low-cost substrates has boost the interest in applying these lipids in other sectors of the oleochemical industry. The economic feasibility of microbial oils is still uncertain due to the high cost of the substrate, which may account for up to 60% of overall production cost in a typical fermentation process. Thus, the use low-cost renewable resources as substrate is of utmost importance.

Microbial oils are produced with an excessive carbon source but limited nitrogen concentration thus, high carbon:nitrogen ratios play an important role in microbial oil production. In this sense, many research efforts have been addressed to tune waste-derived media for the efficient production of microbial oils being the high content on nitrogen the most restrictive factor.

This project will address the production of new activated carbons from residues through thermochemical routes (pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonization). These activated carbons will be used to efficiently remove nitrogen from the oleaginous fermentation media without affecting the composition in carbon sources. This research will open a novel route to link thermochemical and microbiological approaches to target the circular economy.

Job position description

The IMDEA Energy Institute, created by the “Comunidad de Madrid” Government to develop world-class R&D on renewable energy, has been recently awarded as an Excellent Research Centre in the prestigious “María de Maeztu” program. The Institute, with excellent infrastructures and resources, aims at making a significant impact in all energy-related research topics by bringing together top researchers and promoting their close collaboration with the industry.

IMDEA Energy offers a predoctoral researcher position to work both in the Biotechnological and Thermochemical Processes Unit to produce activated carbons and microbial oils from agro-food residues by an innovative valorization strategy. Both research Units have fully equipped labs and pilot plants with all resources/equipment needed to successfully perform all the research activities. During the doctoral studies, the fellow will have the opportunity to make a research stay, preferably abroad, in a renowned University or Research Centre that will complement the research performed at IMDEA Energy.

Main Tasks:
– Application of modern laboratory analytical and biotechnological techniques
– Biochar characterization
– Microbial fermentation and maximization of product yields
– Characterization of the bio-based microbial products
– Presentation of scientific results in workshops and international conferences
– Publication of results in high impact factor journals

Qualification, experience and skills:
– BSc. or MSc. degree preferably in Biotechnology/Biotechnology Engineering/…
– Familiarity with biochemical and/or thermochemical processes
– Knowledge and/or experience on analytical techniques (GC, GC-MS, HPLC, FTIR, …)
– Research experience in biotechnology/chemical labs will be highly valued.
– Accredited fluent English communication skills (oral/written)
– High motivation to work in a challenging, in vogue and multidisciplinary project