Pore network characterisation of real building materials

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


February 9, 2022


Pore network characterisation of real building materials

(ref. BAP-2021-886)

Last modification : Sunday, January 9, 2022

You will become a PhD student in the Building Physics Section of the Department of Civil Engineering at KU Leuven. The Building Physics section currently consists of 4 faculty members and some 15 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. The section's research targets heat and mass transfer in porous building materials, durability of (highly insulated) building components, and the energy consumption and indoor air quality in buildings. The PhD project is most closely related to the first topic, heat and mass transfer in porous building materials, and is hence supervised by professor Hans Janssen.


The transfers of heat and moisture in porous building materials play a critical role in the health and comfort of building occupants and the durability and sustainability of built structures. Just one example is corrosion of concrete reinforcement bars due to chloride invasion with the pore water. Any analysis and design of built structures thus requires knowledge of the hygrothermal properties of the building materials involved, like the thermal conductivity, thewater absorption coefficient, … Such properties strongly depend on the pore structure of the material and much research at the Building Physics section is oriented towards that relation between the material's properties and the material's microstructure. Two of our past PhD students have been working on pore-scale modelling of these heat and moisture transfer properties of porous materials, where prediction of the macroscopic property of the material based on the microscopic storage and transport processes in the pores was accomplished.

Their work can only be applied to real building materials if we can properly image and characterise the pore structures of these building materials, and this project is thus very important in that larger framework. Most building materials have pores ranging from nano- to millimeter, and all these scales are important for the hygrothermal behaviour of the materials. Therefore, the complete imaging and reconstruction of pore structures of building materials, from nano- to millimeter, is the target of this PhD project. To that aim, firstly a multiscale imaging of the material's pore structure is to be obtained,via 2D (e.g. broad-ion beam scanning electron microscopy, focused ion-beam serial cross-sectioning) and 3D (e.g. computed x-ray tomography) imaging techniques. Secondly, these multiscale and multidimensional images are to be integrated to reconstruct the pore structure of the material in its full completeness and complexity, for which several approaches are to be compared in relation to efficiency and accuracy.


This project focuses on the experimental imaging and the numerical reconstruction of the pore structures of building materials. Your research experience should hence involve experimental and numerical work in relation to porous media. Independence and initiative, reliability in team work and good communication skills are similarly valuable. Finally, a suitable knowledge of spoken and written English is strongly required.

The project start is intended for the spring or summer of 2022. In your motivation letter, you should clearly state when you could start. You can apply while currently being a MSc student, but you have to have obtained your MSc degree before the date of appointment. When elaborating your ‘study curriculum with rankings' in your CV, please make sure to include a concise explanation of how course grades are generally given and how specific grades should be interpreted. In your CV, suggest two or three reference persons, and include their contact details (email and telephone number).


A 4-year PhD position.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Hans Janssen, tel.: +32 16 32 13 26, mail: hans.janssen@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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