Second Call for PhD Candidates

The Netherlands Research Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC) is looking for highly motivated and creative PhD candidates in the fields of Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering and/or Materials Engineering, who aspire to jointly and multidisciplinary address one of the grand challenges of today: sustainable energy conversion.

For the second phase of the MCEC research program, 38 PhD projects have been defined, of which 8 projects are still vacant.

Click on the links below to learn more about our projects, PI’s and affiliations, and the application process.

Please note that you will be asked to submit an application that contains a total of 5 files. Among the required files is a video pitch. Incomplete submissions cannot be considered. Make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.

 

MCEC is looking for a highly motivated and creative PhD candidate who has:

  • an excellent master’s degree or an international equivalent in the relevant fields of Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering and/or Materials Engineering;
  • a strong interest in sustainable energy conversion;
  • excellent research and scientific writing skills;
  • perseverance and an independent, pro-active working style;
  • the willingness to look beyond the borders of his or her own discipline and strong motivation to work in a multidisciplinary team;
  • excellent collaboration and communication skills (written and verbally) in English.

Please note that the PhD candidate will be hosted by Utrecht UniversityEindhoven University of Technology or the University of Twente, depending on the specific project(s) that the PhD candidate applies for. Two of the projects are Joint Doctorate projects, meaning that the PhD candidate will spend his or her time at different universities and will receive a Joint Doctorate Degree after finishing the project.

Vacant Projects:


Multiscale Structuring for 2-Step Catalysis & Sensing

1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Alfons van Blaaderen (UU)
2nd supervisor and co-promotor: Associate Prof. Mathieu Odijk (UT)
2nd promotor: Prof. Albert van den Berg (UT)
Affiliations: Utrecht University and University of Twente – MCEC.2-UU-2-11
Research theme: Catalyst Diagnostics to Develop More Active Catalysts

Please note that this project is a Joint Doctorate project at Utrecht University and University of Twente, meaning that the PhD candidate will spend his or her time at different universities and will receive a Joint Doctorate Degree after finishing the project.

Structuring heterogeneous catalysts at multiple length scales to enhance performance at multiple levels is at the heart of the MCEC consortium. Here we want to exploit recent advances in the field of microfluidics, where droplets are made on chips, with hierarchical self-assembly (SA). In this project we want to use slowly drying dispersion droplets consisting of two types of nanoparticles to generate submicron sized well-ordered, binary ‘supraparticles’ (SPs) on gram-scale. Subsequently, we will SA different types of such colloidal SPs into small clusters (e.g. 2, 3 or 4 SPs) with enhanced functionality that stems from the two different types of SPs (also using monodisperse droplets to perform the SA). We will focus on two types of added functionalities made possible by the structuring at several length scales: 1) we want to create SP clusters where a 2-step catalytic reaction can be performed; 2) we will create SP clusters which allow surface-enhanced-Raman-Scattering (SERS) to be enhanced and used on the products of the attached catalytic SP. These are however examples of applications of a general strategy to create on gram-scale heterogeneous catalysts / sensing platforms using highly parallelized microfluidic sub-micrometer droplet generators used for the first time with dispersions of nanoparticles.

Keywords:

  • Self-assembly
  • Microfluidics
  • Sensing
  • Colloids
  • Microscopy

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to Utrecht University. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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High-temperature/high-pressure electrochemical COx reduction

1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Emiel Hensen (TU/e)
2nd supervisor and co-promotor: Assistant Prof. Jan Philipp Hofmann (TU/e)
Affiliation: Eindhoven University of Technology – MCEC.2-TUE-2-5
Research theme: Storing electricity from renewable sources in chemical bonds

A key ingredient of a sustainable energy system is the ability to store excess renewable energy in the chemical bonds of dense energy carriers for later use. As renewable energy will be available mostly in the form of electricity there is a need to convert electric to chemical energy. In this project, the researchers will explore novel operating windows for the direct electrochemical reduction of CO2 and CO in water to fuels that can be later used to generate heat and electricity. The central idea of the project is to combine electrochemistry with thermal catalysis in order to achieve conditions that are similar to those of Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. In order to operate at elevated temperature, a high-pressure cell has been developed. The main approach is to identify suitable catalysts and conditions for electrochemical Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Exploring the surface composition of supported metal particles under these unusual conditions will be carried out in the unique near-ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectrometer installed in Eindhoven in the framework of the MCEC program. When realized, this technology can offer fast, scalable and efficient storage of green electricity via CO2 waste streams (biomass conversion, air capture) or CO waste streams (chemical industry) in fuels and chemicals. It provides a way to integrate electricity as an energy source in the chemical industry starting from simple molecules.

Keywords:

  • Electricity
  • CO2/CO electroreduction
  • Near-ambient pressure XPS
  • Catalyst development
  • Electrochemical Fischer-Tropsch

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to Eindhoven University of Technology. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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A surface-science model for operando NAP-XPS studies of CO2 hydrogenation on dispersed oxides on a zirconia film

1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Emiel Hensen (TU/e)
2nd supervisor and co-promotor: Assistant Prof. Jan Philipp Hofmann (TU/e)
Affiliation: Eindhoven University of Technology – MCEC.2-TUE-2-6
Research theme: Storing electricity from renewable sources in chemical bonds

Renewable electricity will rapidly become cheap and abundant and is therefore expected to play an essential role to displace fossil resources for covering our primary energy demand. However, due to a mismatch between production and demand, there is a growing need to store renewable energy. Doing so in chemical bonds is not only very efficient but also offers opportunities to convert CO2 waste into building blocks for the chemical industry, thereby contributing to a circular economy. Methanol is a promising storage chemical for renewable H2. In this project, the researchers will conduct atomic-scale investigations of a novel catalyst system for efficient methanol synthesis from CO2, consisting of thin layers of reducible metal oxides on zirconia. For this purpose, a surface science approach will be followed in which a thin oxide film of zirconia will be synthesized and loaded with indium oxide or other catalytically active phases. With this model, we will be able to investigate in detail the reactions occurring at the catalytic surface, contributing to the development of better catalytic processes for renewable energy storage.

Keywords:

  • Renewable energy storage
  • CO2 hydrogenation to methanol
  • Reducible oxides
  • Surface science model
  • NAP-XPS

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to Eindhoven University of Technology. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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MRI Flow Imaging of Trickle Bed Reactors

1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Hans Kuipers (TU/e)
2nd supervisor and co-promotor: Assistant Prof. Kay Buist (TU/e)
Affiliation: Eindhoven University of Technology – MCEC.2-TUE-2-10
Research theme: Smart Biomass Conversion

Fischer-Tropsch processes are currently performed in bubble slurry reactors or trickle bed reactors. Although trickle bed reactors have a smaller degree of back mixing and as a result higher chemical conversion, this technology was developed much later than bubble slurry column reactors. The main reason is the difficulty to design and scale-up these reactors, because they are governed by the particle-scale phenomena. In this project, the two-phase flow in a trickle bed reactor will be studied with MRI. The use of MRI will allow visualization of the flow field and obtain quantitative data on the particle-scale phenomena like the liquid and gas distribution. This project will have a close collaboration with a numerical modelling project within MCEC.

Keywords:

  • Trickle bed reactors
  • Multiphase flow
  • MRI
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Experiments

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to Eindhoven University of Technology. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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Making use of diffusiophoresis for enhanced mass transports off spatially inhomogeneous catalysts: experiments

1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Rob Lammertink (UT)
Co-promotor: TBA
Affiliation: University of Twente – MCEC.2-UT-2-8
Research theme: Catalyst Diagnostics to Develop More Active Catalysts

Catalytic reactions are hindered by insufficient transport of the reaction products away from the often expensive catalyst. Here we suggest to achieve an enhanced yield with less catalytic surface, simply by enhancing the hydrodynamic transport away from the surface through spatial inhomogeneities of the catalyst, namely changing areas with an active catalyst with those without any catalyst at all. This will lead to concentration gradients along the surface which will induce a lateral diffusiophoretic respective diffusioosmotic flow which can lead to convective flow patterns away from the surface and thus enhancing the transport away from the catalyst. This in turn will lead to a higher reaction rate. The aim of this project is to (i) quantitative describe this process by comparing controlled experiments and simulations in 2D, (ii) to optimize the pattern of the catalyst to achieve optimal flow with as small catalytic region as possible and (iii) to apply this concept also to 3D catalyst (porous media). This subproject is experimental; there is a numerical counterpart.

Keywords:

  • Catalysts
  • Diffusiophoresis
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Mass transfer
  • Surface patterning

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to University of Twente. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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Heat and mass transfer in dispersed multiphase turbulence with catalytic particles

1st promotor and 2nd supervisor: Prof. Detlef Lohse (UT)
1st supervisor and co-promotor: Assistant Prof. Sander Huisman (UT)
2nd promotor: TBA
3rd supervisor: Associate Prof. Chao Sun
Affiliation: University of Twente – MCEC.2-UT-2-11
Research theme: Smart Biomass Conversion

Dispersed multiphase flows with bubbles and particles are very relevant in flows with chemical (catalytic) reactions, as the bubbles complicate the control of heat and mass transfer in the flow, and so does the presence of catalysts. An extremely relevant example is the Fischer-Tropsch processes. Here the flows are far from laminar, but very turbulent. These flows exhibit a broad range of scales (from micrometers for the catalysts to meters of the reactor). A constant supply of reactants is essential for efficient chemical reactions. Moreover, the egress of the products is also essential, as well as taking away the heat resulting from the reaction. We propose to study the mixing of heat and mass inside a freely rising bubbly swarm, the effect of bubbles on such a flow, and the effects of salt on the bubbles dynamics, and make direct measurements of the heat and mass transport inside our newly constructed and operational vertical water tunnel.

Keywords:

  • Heat Transfer
  • Mass transfer
  • Multiphase flow
  • Turbulence
  • Catalytic

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to University of Twente. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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Making porous supraparticles for catalysis

1st supervisor and 2nd promotor: Prof. Xuehua Zhang (UT)
2nd supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Detlef Lohse (UT)
3rd promotor: Prof. Alfons van Bladeren (UU)
Affiliations: University of Twente and Utrecht University – MCEC.2-UT-2-13
Research theme: Catalyst Diagnostics to Develop More Active Catalysts

Please note that this project is a Joint Doctorate project at University of Twente and Utrecht University, meaning that the PhD candidate will spend his or her time at different universities and will receive a Joint Doctorate Degree after finishing the project.

We want to explore a new and original bottom-up technology to create a self-assembled extremely porous hierarchical catalyst and to show the efficiency of this catalyst. It is based on the so-called ouzo effect, with which nanodroplets nucleate  out of a ternary liquid of appropriate mutual solubilites. The idea is that nanoparticles attach to the nucleating nanodroplets. On further evaporation the nanoparticles will form very porous hierarchical structure which can be produced in large quantities and which have great potential as heterogenous catalysts.

Keywords:

  • Catalyst
  • Ouzo effect
  • Hierarchical porous structure
  • Droplet nucleation

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to University of Twente. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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Continuous sensing and flow with bubbles

1st promotor: Prof. Albert van den Berg (UT)
2nd promotor: Prof. Han Gardeniers (UT)
1st supervisor and co-promotor: Assistant Prof. David Fernandez Rivas
2nd supervisor: Assistant Prof. Jan Philipp Hofmann (TU/e)
Affiliation: University of Twente – MCEC.2-UT-2-6
Research theme: Storing Electricity from Renewable Sources in Chemical Bonds

The production of solar fuels, among which hydrogen gas, has gained much attention in the last decade. However, the promised ideal of powering disparate devices using sunlight with zero-emissions still faces scientific and technological challenges. Even with the recent development of new materials and device architectures, there is a knowledge gap that needs to be covered on the role of H2 (and O2) bubble generation and transport, specifically in continuous flow systems. To achieve an efficient fuel production, it is not sufficient to locally control where gas bubbles are formed in stationary conditions. Hence, this project is aimed at gaining new fundamental insight in two challenging directions: (i) the processes and parameters associated with hydrogen bubble generation and transport under continuous flow conditions in novel and smart electrode designs, (ii) uncover new analytical concepts to measure dynamic physicochemical changes in the vicinity of bubble evolution sites. Both challenges have in common an unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution that is in high demand for designing and testing the solar fuel generators of the future.

Keywords:

  • Bubble
  • Electrolysis
  • Photocatalysis
  • Mass transfer
  • Solar fuels

APPLY

(You’ll be redirected to University of Twente. Please make sure to carefully read all information regarding the application process.)

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