PhD position in Optical Hydrogen Sensing

PhD position in Optical Hydrogen Sensing

Published Deadline Location
17 Jan 1 Mar Delft

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Job description

Hydrogen is projected to be a major energy carrier in the future. One of its projected uses is to power aircraft. Unfortunately, the use of hydrogen comes with a safety hazard as mixtures of hydrogen and air are, under certain conditions, flammable or even explosive. On top of that, even a tiny leakage of hydrogen, being a severe greenhouse gas, can contribute significantly to global warming. While hydrogen sensors exists nowadays, these sensors are not suited for all applications.

Optical hydrogen sensors feature distinct advantages with respect to present-day technology. They can be made small, cheap and are intrinsically safe. The heart of these sensors is a metal hydride sensing layer providing the optical signal. Upon exposure to hydrogen, the metal hydride will absorb hydrogen, which changes it’s optical properties. By measuring e.g. the reflectivity of the light, the hydrogen concentration can then be determined.

While optical hydrogen sensing materials have proven conceptually to work at room temperature, the use onboard of aircraft poses some specific demands including operating temperatures down to -60 °C. As part of the European Union Clean Aviation actions, the 100+ million HYDEA project aims to develop a hydrogen combustion energy for future green hydrogen powered aircraft. In this consortium, of which key industry players as Airbus, General Electric and Safran are part of, Delft University of Technology combines the expertise of two faculties, Aerospace Engineering and Applied Science, to develop optical hydrogen sensors that can detect the tiniest leak of hydrogen on board of aircraft.

In this project, your task will be to research hydrogen sensing materials that can be used for conditions relevant to aviation (low temperatures etc.) and use these materials to construct a proof-of-principle optical hydrogen sensor using fiber optics. Besides developing the sensor, research will also focus on fundamental understanding of the material properties that govern the optical hydrogen sensing properties. This project will be a true team effort, involving Research Technicians, Scientific staff, Postdocs across two different faculties as well as external consortium members.


-   Synthesize hydrogen sensing materials using physical vapor deposition       (magnetron sputtering)

-    Perform advanced material characterization with techniques such as Neutron and X-ray reflectometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction.

-     Characterization of optical performance of the hydrogen sensing materials when exposed to hydrogen containing environments.

-      Translate the hydrogen sensing materials towards applications by investigating various optical read-out methods (Fibre Bragg sensors, micro-mirror geometries etc.)

-       Write academic papers communicating the experimental results that will together constitute your PhD thesis.

-        Co-supervise bachelor and master student thesis projects.

-        Contribute to the teaching activities of the group within the bachelor/master programs of the Faculty of Applied Sciences. This could be helping/coordinating the exercise lectures, practical assignments etc. This will be at max. 10% of your time.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


You would be our ideal candidate if you are/have:

-               Master in (applied) Physics, material science or a related subject

-               Good command of the English language in both speaking and writing

-               Able to work both in a team as well as individually

-               Affinity with developing new materials and devices

-               Affinity with advanced material characterization to understand

-               Basic command of programming (Python) or willing to learn that is a pre.

-               Knowledge about fibre optics is a pre but not required.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 jaar.

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2443 per month in the first year to € 3122 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customizable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.



With more than 1,000 employees, including 135 pioneering principal investigators, as well as a population of about 3,400 passionate students, the Faculty of Applied Sciences is an inspiring scientific ecosystem. Focusing on key enabling technologies, such as quantum- and nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and materials for energy storage and conversion, our faculty aims to provide solutions to important problems of the 21st century. To that end, we train students in broad Bachelor's and specialist Master's programmes with a strong research component. Our scientists conduct ground-breaking fundamental and applied research in the fields of Life and Health Science & Technology, Nanoscience, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Science & Technology, and Engineering Physics. We are also training the next generation of high school teachers and science communicators.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD03368


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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Mekelweg 2, 2628 CD, Delft

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