PhD position on ‘Polyelectrolyte multilayer based membranes for solvent stable nanofiltration in Biorefinery’

PhD position on ‘Polyelectrolyte multilayer based membranes for solvent stable nanofiltration in Biorefinery’

Published Deadline Location
12 Mar 12 Apr Enschede

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Job description

Within Membrane Surface Science (MSuS) and Films in Fluids (FiF), both part of the Department of Membrane Science & Technology (MST) of the University of Twente, The Netherlands ( we have a vacancy for a PhD student. The vacancy is part of a MSCA network and is in collaboration with the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT), Finland.

In the transition away from a fossil fuel based society, it is critical to come to alternative sources for the chemical building blocks required for our day-to-day products. Biorefinery is a general term for the production and subsequent purification of the required biobased molecules. Unfortunately, the separations in biorefinery can be difficult, due to the high complexity of the streams and their relatively diluted nature. For example, desired organic molecules are often mixed with undesired salts dissolved in water contaminated with organic solvents. Nanofiltration membranes are seen as highly promising tools for separation in Nanofiltration, but currently lack the required stability and selectivity.

As part of the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (MSCA) Mem-Fast (Membranes as Enablers for Future Biorefineries), this PhD project will work on a highly novel membrane approach to effectively treat biorefinery streams. Specifically, the PhD student will work on the preparation of so polyelectrolyte multilayer membranes that can effectively separate desired organic molecules from salts, while simultaneously concentrating them. Moreover, these membranes will need to be stable under harsh conditions, including in the presence of organic solvents that originate from or are used in the biorefinery process. To achieve this, we will utilize the self-assembly of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes at the interface of a porous support membrane. In this so-called Layer-by-Layer assembly, a support membrane is alternatively exposed to polycations and polyanions, to build polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) of controllable thickness. A large advantage of this approach is that the properties of the PEM layer, responsible for the separation properties of the membrane, can be tuned by choice of polymer and by the employed coating conditions. This method thus allows the design of a membrane with optimal separation properties, coupled to a high chemical stability. The transport in the separation layer will be understood in detail by applying fundamental tools such as ellipsometry and QCM-D.

The PhD student in this project will work as part of the MeM-Fast doctoral network, a larger network consisting of universities and companies in Europe, that will host in total 10 PhD students. The group of students will receive training together via various summer and winter schools. Moreover, they will establish collaborations across universities and companies, spending part of their project in industry (NX Filtration, the Netherlands, 4 months and RUIZ-Navigator, Portugal, 4 months) and at our partner university, LUT (Finland, 4 months).

As part of the PhD program, you would have the opportunity to receive further education within the Twente Graduate School. Furthermore, you may actively contribute in the teaching program, e.g. by supervision of BSc and MSc assignments and teaching assistance.

It is important to note that for this vacancy there are geographical requirements. The Mem-Fast program follows the general MSCA mobility requirement where the candidate may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the call deadline.


University of Twente (UT)


  • You have a Master’s degree, preferably with distinction (or international equivalent), in Chemical Engineering, Physical Chemistry, Material Science or a closely related discipline.
  • You are motivated and enthusiastic about working on a more fundamental project within a more applied field of research.
  • Preferably you have experience with complexation driven processes, phase separation, membrane science and/or transport phenomena.
  • You have the ability to work independently and as a member of a research team, while demonstrating a collaborative attitude.
  • You are able to review and engage with interdisciplinary studies and are driven by curiosity. You have excellent analytical skills and an analytical mind-set, excellent communication skills, written as well as spoken.
  • English language proficiency is a must and a written test, as well as a scientific presentation, can be part of the interview procedure.

Conditions of employment

  • A full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, and the flexibility to work (partially) from home.
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU).
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2770,- (first year) to € 3539,- (fourth year).
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme.
  • A minimum of 232 leave hours in case of full-time employment based on a formal workweek of 38 hours. A full-time employment in practice means 40 hours a week, therefore resulting in 96 extra leave hours on an annual basis.
  • Free access to sports facilities on campus.
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid).
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision.


The Membrane Science and Technology department, often referred to as Twente Membranes, consists of several chairs focused on the development of new membrane materials and modules, membrane characterization, transport phenomena near and through membrane surfaces and the development of membrane processes and applications. The MST department has a history in membranes research of more than 50 years, and is internationally recognized as a leading department in membrane science and technology. The department boasts an impressive track record of over 250 PhD graduates, over 1000 peer reviewed scientific publications and over 40 granted patents.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1702


University of Twente (UT)

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Drienerlolaan 5, 7522NB, Enschede

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