Recycling of metals from e-textiles using microbiology-based approaches

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/International (including EU at international rates from Sept 21)

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023 (International), 31 August 2023 (UK)

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: May 2023

For further details contact: Dr Eva Pakostova


This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two Universities.

The successful PhD Student will be awarded a studentship from Coventry University with the supervision team being drawn from Deakin University and Coventry University. The PhD Student will graduate with two testamurs, one from Deakin University and one from Coventry University, each of which recognises that the program was carried out as part of a jointly supervised doctoral program. The programme is for a duration of 4 years.

Project details

The project aims to develop sustainable microbiology-based approaches to recover metals from e-textiles in an environment-friendly way. Metallized textiles are well established in electromagnetic interference shielding and static dissipation, but also their application in wearables is gaining increasing attention. E-textiles can be used instead of traditional wiring technology, enabling exciting applications such as pressure sensing, heating textiles, integration of electronics, ‘soft circuits and others. High electric conductivity desirable for e-textile applications can be achieved by plating metals on the surface of the textile, printing metal loaded inks, incorporating metallic wires and threads into the textile, PVD etc. 

The World’s deposits of base and precious metals are rapidly depleting, while the global demand is increasing. Recycling of metals from electronic and urban wastes (including e-textiles) is a sustainable way to protect our natural resources and secure the global metal supply. Current metal recycling processes include pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy, with high costs and energy consumption and potential negative impacts on the environment. Bioleaching, which uses microorganisms to solubilize metals, has been shown to be an economically sustainable and environment-friendly alternative to the conventional techniques.

Bioleaching will be an integral part of the low-waste recycling technology developed within this project in agreement with the principles of the circular economy. The technology will comprise (i) solubilisation of metals from e-textiles using microorganisms (including strictly controlled microbial processes in bioreactors), and (ii) recovery of dissolved metals using electrochemical (and other) methods. The main objectives are to assess different e-textiles for metal recycling (including their type and structure), develop a sustainable bioleaching design (with high e-textile loads and high metal solubilization rates), and recover high-quality products from metal-rich leachates. The cross-institute project will bring together expertise from Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia).


Tuition fees, a stipend (£18,622 p/a) and additional allowances.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Candidate specification

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the cotutelle programme 

This includes;  

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).  
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of each University’s entry requirements please visit:  

Please note that it is essential that applicants confirm that they are able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia).

Additional requirements

A first degree in microbiology, biotechnology, molecular biology, biochemistry, biological sciences, environmental sciences or a closely-related discipline is essential.

  • A Masters-level degree in any of the above would be advantageous.
  • Familiarity with typical laboratory equipment is essential.
  • Knowledge of basic microbiological (aseptic work, cultivations in liquid and on solid media, etc.) and biomolecular techniques (such as PCR, DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, etc.) would be beneficial.
  • Previous experience with laboratory-scale bioreactor operation would be advantageous.
  • Knowledge of and experience in metal recovery techniques and bioinformatics would also be beneficial
  • Good communication, presentation and writing skills.
  • Excellent team skills and able to work in a multi-cultural research group.

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

All candidates must apply to both Universities.

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Eva Pakostova.

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