PhD Plasmonic light-driven catalysis under dynamic conditions

PhD Plasmonic light-driven catalysis under dynamic conditions

Published Deadline Location
24 Jan 25 Feb Amsterdam

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Do you want to experimentally explore how catalytic nanoparticles can be stimulated to work harder and more selectively by rapidly changing their temperature? Join our enthusiastic and diverse group of scientists studying photoconversion materials!

Job description

The project

Heterogeneous catalysis is at the heart of numerous industrial processes, providing pathways for the sustainable production of chemicals, fuels, and materials. However, traditional catalysts often face limitations in terms of energy consumption and selectivity. The emerging field of dynamic catalysis presents a transformative solution by subjecting nanomaterial catalysts to rapidly changing temperatures and local reaction conditions at sub-second timescale.[1–3]

In this EU-funded project, you will explore an especially promising avenue for dynamic catalysis which combines plasmonic photothermal catalysts and pulsed light. By employing fs-ns pulsed illumination, you will efficiently convert light energy into high localized temperatures, initiating catalytic reactions that were previously impractical or inefficient under conventional conditions. This novel approach opens up possibilities for controlling reaction selectivity, increasing reaction rates, and reducing energy consumption.

The primary objective of this research project is to advance the fundamental understanding of pulsed photothermal catalysis and its application in various chemical conversion processes. You will have the unique opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking research that can transform the landscape of clean energy technologies.
  1. A. Baldi, & S. H. C. Askes. Pulsed Photothermal Heterogeneous Catalysis. ACS Catal. 2023, 13, 3419.
  2. M. Shetty et al. The Catalytic Mechanics of Dynamic Surfaces: Stimulating Methods for Promoting Catalytic Resonance. ACS Catal. 2020, 10, 12666.
  3. Q. Dong et al. Programmable heating and quenching for efficient thermochemical synthesis. Nature 2022, 605, 470.

Your responsibilities:
  • Investigate the design and fabrication of novel photocatalytic nanomaterials with desired optical and heat-transfer properties, tailored for pulsed illumination
  • Unravel and optimize the chemical kinetics of catalytic reactions under pulsed illumination through spectroscopic and computational analyses
  • Design and build experimental setups for light-driven chemistry
  • Initiate and lead complementary research collaborations with internal and external partners
  • Disseminate your research through peer-reviewed journals and poster/oral contributions at (inter)national conferences
  • Act as daily supervisor of bachelor and master students during their internships and as teaching assistant to different courses (~10% of the overall PhD time)


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • Master’s degree in physics, physical chemistry, nanophotonics, materials science, or a closely related field, completed within the last 3 years
  • A desirable candidate will have demonstrable experience with, or motivation to learn:
    • Carrying out physical experiments in catalysis and nanophotonics
    • Nanofabrication and characterization
    • Building optical microscopy and/or spectroscopy setups
    • Using computational tools (such as Python, Lumerical FDTD, or COMSOL) and data analysis software
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills in English
  • A team-player mentality and a kind attitude

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:
  • a salary of minimum € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month, on a full-time basis. This is based on UFO profile PhD candidate.
  • a position for at least 0.8 FTE. The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended to a total duration of 4 years (or 5 years 0.8 FTE part time).

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and regulations. Some examples:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

About our section PhotoConversion Materials (PCM)

The successful applicant will be appointed as a PhD student in the group of Dr. Sven Askes, which is part of the PhotoConversion Materials (PCM) section in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (see The position is directly funded by an ERC Starting Grant from the European Union (project HEATPULSE).

The PCM section is a highly interdisciplinary team, working at the interface of physics, chemistry, and materials science to understand fundamental mechanisms of light-matter interaction for light-energy conversion and optical sensing. We host in-house simulation, fabrication, and spectroscopic characterization tools, with great technical research support. Additionally, we have regular access to the nanofabrication and nanocharacterization tools at the AMOLF Nanolab.

By joining our PCM section, you will become part of a diverse group of people, with different scientific backgrounds, nationalities, and expertise. Our aim is to create an inclusive environment that cherishes our diverse backgrounds, leading to groundbreaking science.

By the end of your PhD, you will have become an independent scientist, capable of working effectively in a team, and with excellent communication skills. We take great pride in the growth and development of our students: previous PhD students in our group have won several awards for their scientific achievements and for their communication skills and have immediately secured several jobs offers after graduation.

Faculty of Science
Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3679


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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