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Lakshika Dissanayake

Southern Illinois University, PhD
EREF Scholar 2022

Hybrid Chemo-Bio Upcycling of Waste Textile Project Description:
Textile waste plays a significant role in environmental pollution, contributing 4% of greenhouse gas emissions and 7.7% of landfill waste in the USA alone by 2018. Recycling of textile waste is limited to 14.7% given the chemically complex nature of its multicomponent constituents. Currently, the concept of “upcycling” has become popular over conventional recycling methods given its role in enabling a green circular economy.   

The project aims to use a hybrid approach that uses a chemical method to deconstruct textile waste into its constituents and use engineered microbes to upcycle these products of textile waste deconstruction into value-added products. Here a process called Oxidative Hydrothermal Dissolution (OHD) is used to deconstruct of complex polymers into simple compounds. The complex metabolic pathways of microbes are engineered to utilize these compounds to produce high-value platform chemicals. Those monomers can be used to produce performance-advanced biodegradable polymers vital to a circular material economy. This process is expected to facilitate carbon recovery and reduce microplastic pollution while contributing to the reduction of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.    

Lakshika Dissanayake graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Biology with specialization in Microbiology from Rajarata University in Sri Lanka in May 2016. After graduating, she worked as a demonstrator in Botany at Rajarata while starting a Master of Science degree in Biotechnology at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Following her graduation with her MS in 2019, she worked as a research scientist at John Keells Research Institute, a renowned private research institute in Sri Lanka, where she has contributed to research in the biotechnology field.   

Lakshika first came to the USA in January 2020 for her graduate studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and earned her Master of Science degree in Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry in December 2021. Currently, she is a PhD student in the Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry program at SIU. She has been actively involved in research at the Synthetic Microbiology laboratory at SIU since 2020; working to try to find viable microbial-based solutions to current global solid waste issues.