PhD candidate: development of lignin based covalent adaptable networks

PhD candidate: development of lignin based covalent adaptable networks

Published Deadline Location
3 Aug 31 Aug Geleen

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You are a highly motivated researcher with a MSc degree in chemistry, holding skills in organic and polymer synthesis. You are willing to collaborate closely with both public and private partners on the development of lignin based covalent adaptable networks for adhesive and coating applications.

Job description

This project is part of the FWO-SBO project ligDYN (Lignin based dynamic and circular thermosets). The consortium partners in the ligDYN project are Free University Brussels (VUB), Catholic University Leuven (KUL), Ghent University and Maastricht University.

In this LigDYN project, lignin oil obtained by Reductive Catalytic Fractionation (RCF), a game changing lignocellulose biorefining process, will be functionalized for further incorporation in three major types of Covalent Adaptive Networks (CAN). Such oils are thus ideal for downstream functionalization research, and present a clear improvement over other available types of lignin. Both dissociative and associative CANs will be explored in thermoreversibe thermoset resins for more sustainable coatings and adhesives. The resulting sustainable (anticorrosive) coatings as well as adhesives are truly sustainable because not only are these materials biobased, due to the incorporation of lignin into the network structure, but the reversible nature ensures the ability to reprocess, reshape, and recycle. Such materials hold great promise as alternatives for conventional phenolic resins, as is evident by the broad interest from industrial partners, leading to an industrial user committee with companies from the whole value chain of both coatings and adhesives.

The task of Maastricht University is to develop and characterize lignin based CANs, starting from RCF lignin from KUL. Study of the material characteristics via rheology, DMA, tensile testing etc. is an important part of the job. Screening of the properties of the lignin based resins in coating and adhesive applications will also be done, in close collaboration with the people from VUB and from the industrial advisory board.

The PhD student will be appointed at the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials of Maastricht University, which is part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering. You will work in the group of Associate Professor Katrien Bernaerts, which focusses on the synthesis and design of polymer materials with tunable properties and recyclability exploiting the functionality of biobased building blocks. You will operate from the Brightlands-Chemelot Campus in Geleen (Nl), where the labs are located.


Maastricht University (UM)


  • holds a MSc degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or related fields;
  • has skills in organic synthesis (monomers), polymer synthesis and chemical characterization;
  • has interest in the material characterization of covalent adaptable networks (rheology, DMA, tensile test, …);
  • has a strong interest to investigate structure-property relationships of the synthesized polymers for coating and adhesive applications;
  • is open to scale up monomers/polymers for application tests by companies of the advisory board;
  • aims at helping to create ready-to-market products from the insights gained during the PhD study;
  • in balance with profound scientific publishing in peer review journals;
  • likes to interact with academic and industrial partners;
  • is result driven, inventive, creative, counts with potential impact, works ‘accountable’ and works with ownership;
  • masters scientific English for speaking, reading, and writing. Knowledge of Dutch is not required.

Conditions of employment

  • We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as a Ph.D. candidate. The first year will be a probation period; after a positive assessment, the position will be extended for another 3 years.  Start date of the position is 1 October 2023;
  • Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2,770 with a yearly growth to € 3.539 gross a month (based on a full-time appointment). Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% of the yearly gross income.
  • We offer an attractive package of fringe benefits such as a reduction on collective health insurance, substantial leave arrangements, an optional model for designing a personalized benefits package, sports facilities that staff may use at a modest charge, and application for attractive fiscal arrangements for employees from abroad;
  • You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. If you do not already live in Maastricht (or its direct surroundings), you will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs and relocation reimbursement.
  • The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > About UM > Working at UM.
  • We offer a rewarding career at a young university in the heart of Europe, with a distinctly global perspective and a strong focus on innovative research and education;
  • We provide a stimulating, collaborative and interdisciplinary work environment with excellent opportunities for professional and personal development;
  • Maastricht University has an excellent international reputation, and Maastricht itself is a beautiful, open-minded city located in the center of Western Europe.


Maastricht University

Why work at Maastricht University?

At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.  

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.  

Click here for more information about UM.


Faculty of Science and Engineering

The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) is home to several outstanding departments and institutions covering education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the liberal arts and sciences.

The Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM) is a department of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) at Maastricht University, located on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen. AMIBM is a European cross-border research institute established by Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen University (Germany), focusing on developing advanced biobased materials. The mission of AMIBM is “ground-breaking conversion of biomass to biobased materials and into product applications”. AMIBM promotes excellent multidisciplinary research in the field of biobased materials, by training Ph.D. students with the multiple skills needed to be future leaders in the field, and creating the research breakthroughs that will enable the utilization of sustainable and renewable materials for advanced materials applications. The multidisciplinary team draws together scientists with expertise in molecular and applied biotechnology, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, polymer engineering, biomedical materials, and sustainability assessment.
AMIBM is embedded in a lively, entrepreneurial, and creative working environment at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen (the Netherlands), one of the largest chemical and materials communities in Europe.

More information:

Research group Sustainability of Chemicals and Materials.
The mission of the research team is to provide suitable instruments and sustainability impact assessments to guide the transition from a fossil-based and linear economy to a biobased and circular economy.

We are a young and growing international team of sustainability experts focusing on environmental impact assessment in connection with economic and social impacts.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • AT2023.383


Maastricht University (UM)

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Urmonderbaan 22, 6167 RD, Geleen

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