Hypothesis and Objectives

ELUTE is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network in the form of a European Industrial Doctorate (EID), partnering the University of Birmingham with Thermo Fisher with four other associated partners from the UK and Sweden. As an EID, ELUTE is an equal partnership between academia and industry with a clear, firm vision of producing a group of young researchers with the experience and expertise in the scientific and complementary skills required to advance knowledge in these fields.
ELUTE’s overriding hypothesis is that current understanding of the environmental fate and behaviour of brominated persistent organic chemicals can be improved substantially by imaginative exploitation of recent advances in technology led by the private sector. Our principal research objects are to provide robust scientific information to improve understanding of:

  1. To what extent we can reliably use user friendly field based instruments and/or simpler, cheaper laboratory-based techniques to identify products and waste materials containing high levels of brominated flame retardants.
  2. Whether and to what extent the use of brominated flame retardants has led to an increase in environmental contamination by brominated dioxins and furans.
  3. The environmental fate of brominated flame retardants, including the degradation/ metabolic products of both “legacy” BFRs like PBDEs and “novel” BFRs like DBDPE.

ELUTE will bring economic benefits by demonstrating the capacity of their products to generate novel insights into how chemicals interact with the environment.

Techniques and Research Objectives

ELUTE will apply state-of-the-art analytical chemistry techniques. In addition to the academic and commercial perspectives of the two full partners; further intersectoral aspects are provided by the involvement of Associated Partners including the UK Food Standards Agency who will bring invaluable insights from the policy-making sector, and IVL who bring expertise in complementary training in scientific communication skills.
ELUTE has 3 research objectives (ROs), each addressed by one or two corresponding ESR projects:

  • RO1:To evaluate the ability of screening-level tools for the measurement of Br to provide surrogate measures of BFR concentrations.
  • RO2:To elucidate past temporal trends in environmental levels of BFRs and PBDD/Fs and use these data to test the hypothesis that increased BFR use has increased contamination with PBDD/Fs. 
  • RO3: To improve scientific understanding of the environmental degradation and metabolism of BFRs.

Training Programme

The aim of the Training Programme is to provide a knowledge base and experience to a group of trainees and to develop their transferable skills for future careers. The widespread past, present and future use of flame retardant chemicals in consumer goods and materials and then need to ensure that such use is sustainable, is outstripping the supply of scientists suitably qualified to monitor and understand the impacts on the environment of this use of chemicals, and ensure that public health is protected.

Our training vision is thus to develop a group of young scientists with the necessary depth and breadth of experience, combined with the research and transferable/ complementary skills required to communicate and work effectively across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries. This will be achieved via a training programme in environmental trace analytical chemistry and its application within the field of environmental fate assessment of chemicals. By training four ESRs (early stage researchers), ELUTE can make a direct and significant impact in terms of Europe’s capacity to use chemicals in a sustainable manner.