An electrochemical biosensor for sensitive in-situ detection of methyl-isoborneol (MIB) in water

Academic Supervisors: Dr W Zhang and Prof C Tizaoui

Industry supervisor: Dr Paul Gaskin

Expected Interview Date: As applications are received. Today – 8th September 2022.


With the increasing deterioration of the quality of raw water supplies, because of climate change, global warming, and eutrophication, new effective technologies to improve the processes used for potable water production have significant importance to the region. Welsh Water spends approximately £350,000 per year to deal with the issues of taste and odour in water.

Methyl-isoborneol (MIB) is a naturally occurring compound released in water when algae die off. Its occurrence in drinking water results in customer complaints and unsatisfaction due to the unpleasant taste that MIB imparts to the water.  The raw water concentrations can reach up to 800 ng/L whilst the odour threshold concentrations are extremely low ranging from 4 to 15 ng/L depending on the person. The current methods for MIB detection rely on complicated protocols involving several steps including sampling, sample preparation (e.g., extraction), and off-site investigation using very expensive laboratory equipment making MIB analysis time-consuming, labour intensive, and expensive. Therefore, an alternative highly selective and sensitive method for in-situ detection of MIB at the ng/L levels is highly desirable.

This project will develop a single ultrafast biosensor for in-situ detection of MIB by incorporating pattern recognition algorithms. Low-cost carbon sensor electrodes with properties of enhanced electron transfer and surface area will be fabricated using flexographic printing. More importantly, specific innovations are embodied in the novel implementation of non-conventional metal porphyrins as recognition elements. They will generate characteristic electrochemical signals upon interaction with MIB in water that are distinct from those caused by non-specific adsorption. This will provide an essential step towards label free, direct, and easy-to-use in situ monitoring devices.

Current water quality examinations require the transportation of water samples to a lab and are also expensive and labour intensive. This cost which eventually passes down to consumers will be thus reduced. Imagine providing local consumers with real-time water quality data at no extra cost in addition to basic consumption metrics. As part of the most recent “internet of water” and digital water technology adoption, there will be a trend towards providing real-time data and actionable information to all parties involved. This collaboration can also help move from centralized water quality monitoring to providing real-time actionable information for service engineers, stakeholders, and customers. This project will also enhance the collaboration between Swansea University and Welsh Water yielding further collaborative projects in water treatment and sensor technologies.

The project will be mainly conducted in Swansea University Bay Campus laboratories with occasional visits to Welsh Water for results validation using GC/MS or LC/MS. Training on electrochemical analysis including differential pulse voltammetry, cyclic voltammetry and electrochemical impedance will be provided. In addition, the student will receive training on laboratory analytical methods for water evaluation (HPLC/UV/FLD; LC/MS/MS; GC/MS; TOC; UV/Vis Spectrophotometer). The student will also have exposure to real water treatment processes at Welsh Water.

COATED M2A recognises applicants have a variety of backgrounds with different educational and research experiences. We do not expect applicants to be proficient users of any techniques /equipment mentioned, at the time of application. Our focus is to upskill our participants and training will be provided.

COATED M2A in the Faculty of Science and Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry, providing access to world class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. COATED M2A is committed to providing top quality research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners.

The Athena SWAN charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committed to addressing unequal gender representation. Applications from women and other under-represented groups are particularly welcomed. All applications will be anonymised prior to short listing.

Are you considering making an application and have questions you’d like answered? Come and have a 1-2-1 chat with us at our applicant surgeries (Link) . We encourage all applicants to review our hints and tips document found here

Sponsoring Company: Welsh Water


Candidates must normally hold a minimum undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level.

Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g., IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application.

Full eligibility can be found at


Fees at UK rate and Stipend of £12,500, both for the period of one year.

For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website.

Candidates must have the legal right to live/work in the UK at the start of their studies (student visas do not apply)

Closing Date: Applications will be triaged for interview, as they arrive. Please do not wait to send your application. This advert will be withdrawn on 4th September, or earlier if filled.

Start Date: 1st October 2022

Applications and informal enquiries about this studentship should be directed by email to: