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Phytomining and nano-synthesis: a green route to tackle soil contamination

Industrialisation and urbanisation bring a huge impact on the environment. In parallel impoverishment of resources leaves the industrialised economies to be constantly dependent from third parties for the procurement of raw materials. We aim at shifting the paradigm and switching the approach to contaminated land from an hazard to a wealth of raw material, in particular metals and metal oxides. The use of plant as mean of remediation and stabilisation of contaminated soil is very much in use in industrially contaminated lands. We aim at pushing this further into using plants as a tool for a fast selective metal mining. Additionally, after the metal collection we aim at using plants as the medium for the synthesis of high value nano-particles for the application in electronics, biomedical and energy field.

The project aims at understanding and identifying the optimal plants association to best achieve multi-selective metal collection (using targeted case studies of existing contaminated areas); the optimal treatment to obtain an effective nano-synthesis and maintain a clean biomass residue for further use and the factors/conditions to manipulate nano-particles sizes and morphologies for specific case study applications.


Hazrat Ali, Ezzat Khan, Muhammad Anwar Sajad, Phytoremediation of heavy metals—Concepts and applications, Chemosphere, Volume 91, Issue 7, 2013, Pages 869-881,

Amanullah Mahar, Ping Wang, Amjad Ali, Mukesh Kumar Awasthi, Altaf Hussain Lahori, Quan Wang, Ronghua Li, Zengqiang Zhang, Challenges and opportunities in the phytoremediation of heavy metals contaminated soils: A review, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 126, 2016, Pages 111-121

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Lorna Anguilano -
Lorna Anguilano is a Senior Research Fellow, Quality Manager of the Experimental Techniques Centre and the Assistant Director of the Wolfson Centre for Sustainable materials development and Processing. Lorna’s background is in applied mineralogy with a PhD in Archaeometallurgy and a wide experience of material characterisation through X-Ray Diffraction, X-Ray Fluorescence, Scanning Electron Microscopy and Electron Back-Scattering Diffraction. She provides consultancy in material characterisation and failure’s diagnosis as well as actively generates and develops research in materials characterisation and development. Her research focuses on the overarching concept of upcycling waste and recovery of secondary raw material with a keen interest on metal and polymer recycling for energy and aquaculture applications and phytomining of critical raw materials. Lorna is also continuing her research in the archaometallurgical field.