Innovative approaches for the extraction of valuable resources from food waste

  • Andrew McClure

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Materials that cater for and are successful in dealing with a wide range of separation problems are nowadays widely available. Nonetheless the inherent generality of these materials often results in inefficiencies in tackling particular separation challenges. As such, there is significant interest in the development of adsorbents which are tailored towards the challenge at hand, often with the aim of improving upon factors such as selectivity for a particular target or improving binding capacity. However, in designing tailored materials, a balance needs to be struck depending on economic factors such as the scale required, market value of the target molecule(s) and cost for synthesis of the adsorbent in order to attain financial viability. 

In this thesis, the role of tailored adsorbents in the valorisation of food waste matrices is examined. To begin with, the application of highly tailored materials in the form of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) is pursued for the valorisation of a food waste stream, however several barriers such as scalability, quantity of waste to be treated and solubility limitations prohibited the use of these materials at scale. These limitations were circumvented in the second part of this thesis, whereby porous materials were developed in-house via a suspension polymerisation approach and tailored to address the separation challenge at hand. The tailored materials were successfully applied in a chromatographic purification step to extract the target compound in both high purity and yield from a food waste stream, and also costed to evaluate the feasibility at scale. In the final stages of this thesis, a comprehensive assessment of materials designed to sequester prominent molecules within fruit and vegetable waste streams is conducted. The results obtained from this assessment showed that the design aspects of a tailored adsorbent is strongly dependent on the overall aim of a specific valorisation process.

Thesis is embargoed is until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsEngineering & Physical Sciences Research Council
SupervisorPanagiotis Manesiotis (Supervisor) & John McGrath (Supervisor)


  • Food waste valorisation
  • tailored polymers
  • materials science
  • separation science
  • supramolecular chemistry

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