PhD position on ‘Polyelectrolyte multilayer based membranes for solvent stable nanofiltration in Biorefinery’

University of Twente
April 12, 2024
Offerd Salary:€ 2770
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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Within Membrane Surface Science (MSuS) and Films in Fluids (FiF), both part of the Department of Membrane Science & Technology (MST) of the University of Twente, The Netherlands (www. we have a vacancy for a PhD student. The vacancy is part of a MSCA network and is in collaboration with the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT), Finland.

In the transition away from a fossil fuel based society, it is critical to come to alternative sources for the chemical building blocks required for our day-to-day products. Biorefinery is a general term for the production and subsequent purification of the required biobased molecules. Unfortunately, the separations in biorefinery can be difficult, due to the high complexity of the streams and their relatively diluted nature. For example, desired organic molecules are often mixed with undesired salts dissolved in water contaminated with organic solvents. Nanofiltration membranes are seen as highly promising tools for separation in Nanofiltration, but currently lack the required stability and selectivity.

As part of the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (MSCA) Mem-Fast (Membranes as Enablers for Future Biorefineries), this PhD project will work on a highly novel membrane approach to effectively treat biorefinery streams. Specifically, the PhD student will work on the preparation of so polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes that can effectively separate desired organic molecules from salts, while simultaneously concentrating them. Moreover, these membranes will need to be stable under harsh conditions, including in the presence of organic solvents that originate from or are used in the biorefinery process. To achieve this, we will utilize the self-assembly of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes at the interface of a porous support membrane. In this so-called Layer-by-Layer assembly, a support membrane is alternatively exposed to polycations and polyanions, to build polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) of controllable thickness. A large advantage of this approach is that the properties of the PEM layer, responsible for the separation properties of the membrane, can be tuned by choice of polymer and by the employed coating conditions. This method thus allows the design of a membrane with optimal separation properties, coupled to a high chemical stability. The transport in the separation layer will be understood in detail by applying fundamental tools such as ellipsometry and QCM-D.

The PhD student in this project will work as part of the MeM-Fast doctoral network, a larger network consisting of universities and companies in Europe, that will host in total 10 PhD students. The group of students will receive training together via various summer and winter schools. Moreover, they will establish collaborations across universities and companies, spending part of their project in industry (NX Filtration, the Netherlands, 4 months and RUIZ- Navigator, Portugal, 4 months) and at our partner university, LUT (Finland, 4 months).

As part of the PhD program, you would have the opportunity to receive further education within the Twente Graduate School. Furthermore, you may actively contribute in the teaching program, e.g. by supervision of BSc and MSc assignments and teaching assistance.

It is important to note that for this vacancy there are geographical requirements. The Mem-Fast program follows the general MSCA mobility requirement where the candidate may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the call deadline.

Your profile
  • You have a Master's degree, preferably with distinction (or international equivalent), in Chemical Engineering, Physical Chemistry, Material Science or a closely related discipline.
  • You are motivated and enthusiastic about working on a more fundamental project within a more applied field of research.
  • Preferably you have experience with complexation driven processes, phase separation, membrane science and/or transport phenomena.
  • You have the ability to work independently and as a member of a research team, while demonstrating a collaborative attitude.
  • You are able to review and engage with interdisciplinary studies and are driven by curiosity. You have excellent analytical skills and an analytical mind-set, excellent communication skills, written as well as spoken.
  • English language proficiency is a must and a written test, as well as a scientific presentation, can be part of the interview procedure.
  • Our offer
  • A full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, and the flexibility to work (partially) from home.
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU).
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2770,- (first year) to € 3539,- (fourth year).
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme.
  • A minimum of 232 leave hours in case of full-time employment based on a formal workweek of 38 hours. A full-time employment in practice means 40 hours a week, therefore resulting in 96 extra leave hours on an annual basis.
  • Free access to sports facilities on campus.
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid).
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision.
  • Information and application

    Are you interested in this position? Please send your application via the 'Apply now' button below before 12-04-2024, and include:

  • A cover letter (maximum 2 pages A4), emphasizing your specific interest, qualifications, motivations to apply for this position.
  • A Curriculum Vitae, including contact information for at least two academic references
  • If possible, please add a list of grades of both your BSc and MSc diploma.
  • Questions regarding these positions can be directed to Prof. Wiebe M. de Vos ([email protected], phone: +31 53 489 4495).

    About the department

    The Membrane Science and Technology department, often referred to as Twente Membranes, consists of several chairs focused on the development of new membrane materials and modules, membrane characterization, transport phenomena near and through membrane surfaces and the development of membrane processes and applications. The MST department has a history in membranes research of more than 50 years, and is internationally recognized as a leading department in membrane science and technology. The department boasts an impressive track record of over 250 PhD graduates, over 1000 peer reviewed scientific publications and over 40 granted patents.

    About the organisation

    The Faculty of Science & Technology (Technische Natuurwetenschappen, TNW) engages some 700 staff members and 2000 students in education and research on the cutting edge of chemical technology, applied physics and biomedical technology. Our fields of application include sustainable energy, process technology and materials science, nanotechnology and technical medicine. As part of a people-first tech university that aims to shape society, individuals and connections, our faculty works together intensively with industrial partners and researchers in the Netherlands and abroad, and conducts extensive research for external commissioning parties and funders. Our research has a high profile both in the Netherlands and internationally and is strengthened by the many young researchers working on innovative projects with as doctoral candidates and post-docs. It has been accommodated in three multidisciplinary UT research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centre and Digital Society Institute.

    Want to know more? Vos, W.M. de (Wiebe)

    Full Professor

    Vos, W.M. de (Wiebe)

    Full Professor

    Do you have questions about this vacancy? Then you can contact Wiebe for all substantive questions about this position and the application procedure. For general questions about working for the UT, please refer to the chatbot.



    Email:[email protected]

    How to apply Step 1

    Apply. When you see a vacancy that appeals to you, you can apply online. We ask you to upload a CV and motivation letter and/or list of publications. You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.

    Step 2

    Selection. The selection committee will review your application and you will receive a response within 2 weeks after the vacancy has been closed.

    Step 3

    1st interview. The 1st (online or in person) meeting serves as an introduction where we introduce ourselves to you and you to us. You may be asked to give a short presentation. This will be further explained in the invitation.

    Step 4

    2nd interview. In the second interview, we will further discuss the job content, your skills and your talents.

    Step 5

    The offer. If the conversations are positive, you will be made a suitable offer.

    Your Colleagues
  • Roth, H. (Hannah)
  • Personal page

  • Benes, N.E. (Nieck)
  • Personal page

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