Polymorph selection of APIs at functionalized surfaces studied with SHG

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


October 20, 2022


Polymorph selection of APIs at functionalized surfaces studied with SHG

(ref. BAP-2022-564)

Last modification : Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The molecular Imaging and Photonics group at KULAK (MIP@KULAK) was founded 4 years ago and currently consists of a diverse international team of 4 PhD students and 2 postdocs. A common theme in our group is the study of crystallization processes with microscopy and spectroscopy techniques. We are working with a wide range of materials, from perovskites and MOFs to polymers and pharmaceuticals. MIP@KULAK specializes in nonlinear optical microscopy and spectroscopy, combined with traditional techniques such as UV-VIS, Raman, fluorescence, XRD, calorimetry, SEM, AFM,.. KULAK is a division of the university of Leuven (KUL) in the West of Flanders, Kortrijk. You can find more information here: https: // kulak.kuleuven.be/nl/onderzoek/Internationalspace


Crystalline materials commonly display a surprisingly large variety of stable and metastable crystal structures with distinctive physical properties. This phenomenon is called polymorphism. A well-known example is the element carbon which can exist as diamond, graphite, graphene, fullerene etc. In the pharmaceutical industry control over the polymorph outcome is crucial, because the crystal structure determines the efficacy, stability and patentability of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API's).

Since crystallization almost always occurs at foreign interfaces, the crystal outcome can be controlled through interactions with functional groups grafted to surfaces. Functionalized surfaces are able to selectively tune the nucleation kinetics of crystals through intermolecular interactions and confinement. The aim of this project is to rationalize surface functionalization based on binding affinities between functional groups and specific crystal planes. Combined with confinement in silica opals optimal selectivity will be achieved for selected APIs.

The second overarching aim of the project is to employ microscopy and spectroscopy to study nucleation and crystal growth at functionalized surfaces during crystallization. Through direct measurement of crystallization kinetics the mechanism of crystallization can be studied. Our lab is specialized in nonlinear optical microscopy and spectroscopy. Second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy is particularly suited to study crystallization due to its sensitivity to symmetry, which allows measurement of polymorph structure and local orientation. In this manner a complete picture of the crystallization mechanisms of API's at surfaces becomes attainable.


If you have a knack for challenging, creative and interdisciplinary research on the interface of materials science, chemistry and physics, don't hesitate to apply. You will end up in a state-of-the-art research environment within an enthusiastic and welcoming team. While independence is required on your part, you will be guided in your endeavors by experienced researchers.

- You have a master in chemistry, physics, materials science or related domains.

- A background in physical chemistry or materials science is considered a plus.

- Experience with spectroscopy and nonlinear optics is considered a plus, but not necessary since an introductory course at KU Leuven will be part of the PhD track. A willingness to familiarize oneself with these techniques is required.

- Experience with relevant techniques such as XRD, DSC, SEM, AFM,.. is considered a plus.


Funding is available for the entirety of the PhD, initially a 1 year contract will be provided which will be extended in case of a good evaluation. Please send your applications through the KU Leuven website, we will get back to you at latest in October 2020. The starting date is negotiable.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Stijn Van Cleuvenbergen, tel.: +32 16 32 58 27, mail: stijn.vancleuvenbergen@kuleuven.be.

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

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