Pre-doctoral position: 3D printed microstructured reactors for organic chemical production

July 17 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

VITO is a leading European independent research and technology organisation in the areas of cleantech and sustainable development, elaborating solutions for the large societal challenges of today.

A team of approximately 700 enthusiastic employees works on innovative research programmes within our 5 themes Energy, Chemistry, Materials, Landuse and Health. By doing this, they are contributing to the achievement of sustainable technological solutions in projects for clients (industry and governments).

If you would like to join and strengthen our VITO team as a researcher please consult our PhD/ Postdoc position currently available.

The project will focus on 3D microstructured reactors for printed complex catalysts (including the complexes themselves) onto structured supports (monoliths). The work will involve the development of controlled and more efficient routes for reactants under operating conditions.

To achieve this, we propose to study the efficacy of a catalyst printing process to produce a monolithic Fe-containing cross-coupling catalyst by determining the chemical phase distribution along the monolith as a function of the printing process. During the reaction simultaneous online analysis of flowing streams (such as microflow HPLC, FTIR, NIR/UV, Raman) will be carried out. In addition, this project will pursue combined operando imaging techniques, micro X-ray diffraction, fluorescence and absorption computed tomography and adsorption spectroscopy (μ-XRD/XRF/absorption-CT/μ-XANES).

The project will employ iron-based systems since they are showing promise as Pd replacements. There is evidence that both Fe nanoparticles and simple complexes such as Fe(acac)3 work in the heterogenous catalyst reactions. In terms of the materials candidates, the project aims to explore more sustainable catalytic processes in terms of both chemical production and catalytically active ingredients. We will focus on printing Fe-based systems on both carbon and other refractory oxide including co-printing promoters of choice (such as Co, K) which help such catalyst systems. Regarding the selective oxidation reactions, the 'rust' nanoparticles are expected to perform well as catalysts for oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes, or olefins to aldehydes.

The project is exceedingly well supported in terms of access to equipment, as well as the level and quality of supervision offered at both partner institutions. The majority of work on the development of catalytic structures will be performed at VITO (Belgium), including the characterisation of structured reactors by a range of standard ex situ techniques (such as porosity analysis, SEM, WDS, XRD). The reactor testing and potentially complimentary non-destructive advanced in situ testing will be carried out at the facilities of the Research Complex at Harwell (UK).

This studentship will be supervised by Professor Andrew Beale (UCL Chemistry/Research Complex at Harwell) and Dr. Vesna Middelkoop (VITO, Sustainable Materials Department). Informal enquiries may be addressed to

Funding Notes: funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance (the standard UK/EU PhD stipend) for 3.5 years' duration. The funding requirements restrict the project to EU/UK home candidates.

The ideal candidate will have graduated with a good honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline such as Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry or Physics.

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess