PhD Position Identifying and Efficient Removing Copper From Steel Scrap

PhD Position Identifying and Efficient Removing Copper From Steel Scrap

Published Deadline Location
13 Feb 31 Mar Delft

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This PhD project will exploare and develop an economically viable and environmentally friendly way to remove Cu from steel scrap to maximize the scrap usage and to further reduce CO2 emissions.

Job description

To meet the national climate target and reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 2050, the Dutch steel industry has committed to make CO2-neutral steel by using hydrogen and also make the production process more sustainable by maximising the recycling of steel scrap. Copper can enter into the steel melt from scrap, and is a detrimental element unwanted in most steel grades, that can only be tolerated at very low concentrations. Due to the increasing demand for circularity and climate change mitigation, the amount of recycled scrap in steel production is expected to increase in coming years. Consequently, more copper, which is present in the scrap with increasing amounts, will enter to the steel. Currently, copper cannot be removed from steel by oxidation refining once it is dissolved in liquid steel. This leads to a critical limitation of increasing the scrap input in steelmaking, hampering its circularity.

Various methods and processes to remove copper from steel before oxidation refining have been studied and tested on laboratory scale, but none of these methods without further development are readily close to industrial operation because of low efficiency or excessive costs. This PhD study will focus on finding most efficient and feasible de-copperisation methods based on theoretical and experimental studies, and on bringing the technology closer to industrial operation. Better understanding the underlying reaction mechanisms and identifying the key limiting factors of the reaction kinetics of copper removal process are essential.

In this PhD study, the candidate is expected to carry out the following research:

  • conducting a comprehensive and critical assessment of the known copper removal methods in the literature;
  • investigating the actual state and distribution of the copper in scrap (alloyed or physically bound) for choosing the methods with the maximum impact for detailed experimental study;
  • designing and performing pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical experiments for the selective removal of copper, to establish efficient and practical conditions for copper removal based on efficiency, lower limit, and reaction kinetics;
  • providing fundamental support and scientific recommendations for industrial selection of the most effective Cu removal methods and for reaching maximized usage of abundant but heavily contaminated steel scrap.

The research will be conducted at the research group Metals Production Refining and Recycling (MPRR) within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, faculty 3mE, Delft University of Technology. Close cooperation will be made with our industry partner Tata Steel R&D in Netherlands. The project is coordinated by the Materials Innovation Institute M2i. 


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


We are looking for an inspiring, self-motivated candidate to conduct the research for developing more efficient metallurgical refining methods for copper removal from different quality industrial steel scrap originated from various end-of-life applications.

For this PhD position, we are expecting the candidate with the following qualifications:

  • MSc in process metallurgy, chemical engineering, or a related area,
  • fundamental knowledge in pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy,
  • skills in materials sampling and knowledge in characterisation with various analystical methods (XRF, XRD, ICP, SEM/EDS, EPMA etc.),
  • laboratory experience in conducting pyrometallurgical and/or hydrometallurgical experiments,
  • good communication skills in English, proficiency in report/paper writing and technical presentations,
  • a good team player as part of the MPRR group, and willing to cooperate closely with the industry partner within the project,
  • working experience in steelmaking and recycling industry being as added value.

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 years.

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 € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 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 customisable 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 as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

From chip to ship. From machine to human being. From idea to solution. Driven by a deep-rooted desire to understand our environment and discover its underlying mechanisms, research and education at the 3mE faculty focusses on fundamental understanding, design, production including application and product improvement, materials, processes and (mechanical) systems.

3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with high-tech lab facilities and international reach. It’s a large faculty but also versatile, so we can often make unique connections by combining different disciplines. This is reflected in 3mE’s outstanding, state-of-the-art education, which trains students to become responsible and socially engaged engineers and scientists. We translate our knowledge and insights into solutions to societal issues, contributing to a sustainable society and to the development of prosperity and well-being. That is what unites us in pioneering research, inspiring education and (inter)national cooperation.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These videos will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD03499


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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