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Sustainable production of Vitamin K1

The project: Vitamin K1 is an essential nutrient in both human and animal nutrition. Given the increasing environmental pressures facing us as a society there is a need to develop safe, sustainable and cost-effective production methods for important compounds.

We have previously shown that microalgae are a rich source of Vitamin K1, and there is considerable potential for these organisms to be used in sustainable production. This is because they are photosynthetic, meaning the primary inputs to the process are sunlight and carbon dioxide. Additionally, production using microalgae is favourable as they do not need to be grown using arable land or potable water, avoiding competition with existing food production methods. However, the diversity of microalgae has yet to be fully explored, and there are some challenges in developing and scaling-up processes.

This project aims to address these challenges in order to develop novel, sustainable production processes.

What you will be doing: this project will be primarily lab based. Students working on this project can:

• Cultivate a range of species of microalgae and cyanobacteria at small (< 250 mL) scales, as well as at larger (3 L) scales using custom built photo-bioreactors.

• Learn skills related to the extraction of vitamin K1 from algal biomass, as well as quantitating the concentrations using HPLC

• Learn skills in process development and optimisation

• Learn skills in process modelling and techno-economic evaluation.

Work on the project is not limited to these areas – if you have an area you are particularly interested in please get in touch.

Your background:

Applicants should have a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree, or a MSc in chemical engineering, biotechnology or a related discipline. Applicants should be able to work independently, have good written and oral communication skills and be self-motivated. 


Tarento, T.D.C., McClure, D.D., Vasiljevski, E., Schindeler, A., Dehghani, F., and Kavanagh, J.M. (2018). Microalgae as a source of vitamin K1. Algal Research 36, 77-87., T.D.C., McClure, D.D., Dehghani, F., and Kavanagh, J.M. (2019). Pilot-scale production of phylloquinone (vitamin K1) using a bubble column photo-bioreactor. Biochemical Engineering Journal 150, 107243.

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 would 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: 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)

Dale McClure - I joined the Chemical Engineering Department at Brunel University in May 2021, after moving from the University of Sydney where I was employed at the Centre for Advanced Food Engineering, working in the area of industrial biotechnology. Prior to that I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2014 and my undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in 2010. My research is in the area of industrial biotechnology, with a focus on the safe, sustainable and cost-effective production of high-value compounds for the food, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. A key focus of my work is sustainability and transforming what would be otherwise considered wastes to valuable products. I have extensive experience in the design, scale-up and modelling of bioreactors, and have developed advanced computational models of industrial systems. I have worked extensively with industry and many of the projects I have worked on have been successfully commercialised.   Awards and Honours:
  • 2018 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
  • 2016 Winner of European Society of Biochemical Engineering Bioprocess Engineering Design Prize
  • 2011 Australian Postgraduate Award
  • 2009 MIPPs Scholarship
  • 2008 Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance
  • 2008 Amcor Prize for Greatest Proficiency in Chemical Engineering Practice
  • 2007 Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance