PhD in "Techno-economics of Ammonia as Fuel of the Future"

PhD in "Techno-economics of Ammonia as Fuel of the Future"

Published Deadline Location
14 Dec 1 Mar Amsterdam

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Job description

The transport sector produces harmful emissions that cause climate change and have significant detrimental health effects. To rid these emissions, ammonia (NH3) may become the fuel of the future for ships, trains and other heavy transport vehicles. Big open questions are, amongst others: "what is the best way to produce electricity from ammonia on board?" and "how can one optimally use ammonia for mobility purposes, for emergency power in e.g. hospitals, or as storage medium for hydrogen?". These questions are difficult for a number of reasons, but the AmmoniaDrive project will attempt to produce a comprehensive set of answers. In particular, the goal is to find out whether a combination of a so-called Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) and an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) constitutes an efficient, clean, affordable and safe solution for the transformation of the transport sector. The PhD position associated with this part of AmmoniaDrive is dedicated to the techno-economics of ammonia as energy carrier or storage medium.

What are you going to do

You will undertake learning curve analysis, building, first of all, on existing work in this domain, such as learning curve research for solar PV (Haegel et al., 2017), learning phenomena studied for solid oxide fuel cells (Rivera-Tinoco et al., 2012), and analysis on the relationship between the learning rate and unit size and/or scaling (Sweerts et al., 2020). You will update and improve the learning curve for SOFCs, so as to inform on the costs of an important component of the overall AmmoniaDrive system. In parallel, the PhD will also determine the levelized costs of ammonia production (LCON) and investigate to what extent these costs may decline in the future as a result of learning phenomena. For this purpose, you will thus attempt to determine a learning curve for NH3 production on the basis of historic cost and capacity data. More broadly, you will investigate the use of ammonia as fuel, energy carrier and/or hydrogen storage medium, with a special focus on the techno-economic dimension thereof, either through technology assessments or by integrated energy systems analysis.

You will/tasks:
  • Undertake techno-economic research on ammonia as fuel in the transport sector.
  • Update and improve the relevant learning curves, for instance for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).
  • Develop learning curves for NH3 production: levelized cost of ammonia production (LCON).
  • Determine the costs of the AmmoniaDrive system, including the combustion part (ICE/EM, SCR).
  • Assess the overall potential system cost reductions, and, for example, the impact of CO2 taxation.
  • Investigate the role of financing on system costs, e.g. impact of the interest rate on LCON.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


A recent MSc degree in the natural or environmental sciences (or related field), preferably including affinity with energy and techno-economic studies.

Your experience and profile:
  • Good communication skills in oral and written English.
  • Takes initiative and has good time management skills.
  • Interest in collaborating with students and colleagues in and outside the institute
  • Knowledge, skills and experiences which are a plus (pre) are mentioned separately from the summary in a sentence. These include affinity with energy and techno-economic studies.

Conditions of employment

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week, preferably starting on 1-6-2023, for the duration of four years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended to a total duration of four years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Masters students.

Based on a full-time contract (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,541 in the first year to €3,247 (scale P) in the last year. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the '30% ruling', may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.

What else do we offer
  • a function in which initiative is strongly valued
  • an enthusiastic team that welcomes new members
  • an inspiring academic and international environment in the heart of Amsterdam.


Faculty of Science

The Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, and is curiosity as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavor & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organized into four main themes: Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Synthesis & Catalysis and Molecular Photonics. Increasing interdisciplinary research is undertaken in the field of energy, climate change and sustainability.

The Sustainable Energy Technology (SET) group researches, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the technologies and options needed to control global climate change and reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. The SET group does so by employing two types of analysis: (1) technology-economic assessments including studies on current and future costs as well as tools like learning curves, (2) integrated assessment research using energy system models to produce scenarios for climate change mitigation.

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 10917


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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