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The University of Southampton
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Dr Yue Zhang BEng MEng PhD FHEA

Lecturer in Environmental Engineering

Dr Yue Zhang's photo

Dr Yue Zhang is a Lecturer in Environmental Engineering within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Dr Zhang’s research lies in the area of environmental sustainability. One of her main interests is anaerobic digestion, for both renewable energy production and organic waste management. During her postdoctoral career she undertook two Defra-funded research contracts on anaerobic digestion. The results have proven critical to the UK Government's plans for this technology, and have already been successfully applied in the commercial sector in the UK.

Her current focus is on microbial aspects of the anaerobic digestion process in order to identify the practical benefits this could give in terms of engineering control of these systems. The fundamental knowledge and understanding gained can be applied both to bioenergy and biofuels production, and in biotechnology for bioproducts. Within this line of research, fatty acid production and extraction from mixed-culture fermentation is being investigated via a number of BBSRC NIBB and Newton Fund projects.

Biomethanisation of CO2 in anaerobic digester is another main research area, supported by IB Catalyst H2AD project ‘Biomethanisation of CO2 in Anaerobic Digestion Plants’ and BBSRC Carbon Recycling Network project ‘Developing the Potential for CO2 Capture and Utilisation in Hybrid Anaerobic Digesters’.

She also retains a great interest in wastewater treatment and pollution remediation. The work carried out on this theme includes adsorption for metal removal, biological nutrient removal and bioelectrochemical systems.

BEng, Environmental Engineering, Tianjin University, 1997

BEng, Engineering Economics, Tianjin University, 1997

MEng, Environmental Engineering, Tsinghua University, 2001

PhD, University of Southampton, 2005

PG Cert, Academic Practice, University of Southampton, 2012

Research Fellow, University of Southampton, 2006-2012

Lecturer, University of Southampton, 2012-present

Research interests

  • Anaerobic digestion (AD) for organic waste management and renewable energy production, especially optimisation of digestion process e.g. via selective trace element supplementation, and manipulation of microbially-mediated pathways methanogenesis
  • Mixed-culture fermentation for bio-based chemical production with integration of downstream recovery processes, especially on selective carboxylic acid production from protein-rich wastes
  • CO2 biomethanisation, especially in-situ hydrogen addition new project to be created
  • Microbial electrochemical systems for biofuel production, for instance for methane and biobutanol production
  • Nutrient recovery from waste and wastewater
  • Heavy metal removal from industrial effluents and wastewaters using a range of synthetic nanoparticle and biosorption techniques.
These tiny creatures produce bioenergy
Producing bioenergy
The bugs work as a team, each has an individual function
Working as a team
Like us, they also need mineral nutrients to stay healthy
Mineral nutrients

Research group

Water and Environmental Engineering Group

Research project(s)

VALORGAS - Valorisation of food waste to biogas

AD is not a new technology, but its application for energy recovery in the field of municipal waste treatment is only just becoming established in Europe, and only for mixed wastes. The use of source segregated food wastes as substrate is not yet widespread, possibly because of technical challenges linked with collection, handling, pre-treatment and digestion of this material. The research includes a number of closely related components with a common underlying goal: to evaluate and where possible improve the energy production process from the perspective of the overall net energy gain achieved within defined system boundaries that include collection, sorting, processing, and beneficial use of recovered material

TRIF PS - Particle size requirements for effective bioprocessing of biodegradable municipal waste

This was a collaborative project funded under Defra's TRIF programme to look at the effects of particle size on the aerobic and anaerobic degradation of organic wastes

Optimising processes for the stable operation of food waste digestion

This work identified a key cause of process instability in anaerobic digestion of food waste, and suggested technical solutions

Anaerobic degradation of renewable plastics

This study for the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) aimed to determine whether anaerobic digestion (AD) is an effective treatment for a mixed food waste stream containing renewable plastics.

Optimising Inputs and Outputs from Anaerobic Digestion Processes

The aim of the work was to better understand the factors influencing the stabilisation of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the anaerobic digestion process. In particular the research addressed whether stabilisation, as judged by volumetric gas production, solids destruction and bio-stability of the residues, could be improved by co-digestion with other organic wastes from industry, commerce and agriculture.

Measuring stability of digestates from AD of source-segregated biodegradable waste and manures

Funded by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Bioenergy and Organic Resources Group led a consortium of 3 institutions, including The Open University and WRc, to develop the test which has now become part of PAS110 and confirms that a digestate is sufficient in terms of biological stability to ensure environmentally sound land application.

EU - China Cooperation for Liquid Fuels

ECOFUEL is building an international partnership for new second generation biofuel processes: the research will set the foundation stones for the technologies being developed, and make further contributions to overcoming barriers to commercialisation. The ECOFUEL project will effectively integrate respective regional programmes for better allocation and utilisation of resources, in particular to achieve the critical mass required to move the second generation of biofuels forward.

Production and extraction of C3 and C4 aliphatic carboxylic acids from the anaerobic digestion of waste blood as a model substrate

Biomethanisation of CO2 in Anaerobic Digestion Plants

This project is part of the IB Catalyst programme jointly funded by Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).    

Development of a bio-refinery system for organic acid production, bioenergy generation and nutrient recovery using fish wastes from Tumaco, Colombia

This project proposes a two-stage system: the first stage includes an acid and ammonia production and recovery process, and the second stage focuses on an anaerobic digestion process to use the untransformed wastes and unrecovered acids from stage one, as well as other fish waste components, for the production of biogas.

Biobutanol production via bioelectrochemical reduction of butyric acid

This proof-of-concept project focuses on diversification of anaerobic digestion into the field of industrial biotechnology through the conversion of one of its intermediate bulk chemicals, butyric acid, into butanol using a microbial electrochemical system.

Developing the Potential for CO2 Capture and Utilisation in Hybrid Anaerobic Digesters

Civil Engineering Part 3 Co-ordinator 2019-present

Civil Engineering Individual Project Rep 2019-present

MSc Advanced Chemical Engineering Research Project Rep 2019-present

Environment Labs Academic Lead 2021-present

EPSRC Full College Membership, 2018-present

BBSRC FoodWasteNet Management Committee member, 2016-19

EPSRC Associate College Membership, 2016-2018

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CENV1027 Civil Engineering Fundamentals Lecturer
CENV6141 Bioenergy Module Lead & Lecturer
CENV3059 Urban Water and Wastewater Engineering Module Lead & Lecturer
FEEG3003 Individual Project Supervisor
FEEG6012 MSc Research Project Supervisor


Dr Yue Zhang
Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Burgess Road, Southampton, SO16 7QF

Room Number: 178/5005

Facsimile: (023) 8067 7519

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