2 PHD POSITIONS: CO2 valorisation in biogas – from thermal to non-equilibrium plasma chemistry

DIFFER is the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, one of the nine research institutes of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The institute focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to energy research, combining physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science. DIFFER's research takes place in two main themes: Solar Fuels for the conversion and storage of renewable energy and Fusion Energy as a clean and unlimited source of energy. DIFFER develops and supports a national network on fundamental energy research and collaborates closely with the academic community and industrial partners.

PHD POSITION: CO2 valorisation in biogas – from thermal to non-equilibrium plasma chemistry

The two PhD positions form a project (granted within the NWO Solar-to-Products programme) in which a plasma approach to dry reforming (i.e. conversion of CO2 and CH4 into synthesis gas) is investigated. The plasma approach enables compatibility with (intermittent) sustainable energy sources. An innovative combination of non-equilibrium CO2 activation and thermal CH4 decomposition is investigated to allow for selective and energy efficient conversion of biogas into valuable chemicals and/or liquid fuels. The societal relevance is to realize current biogas potential and enhance solar and wind potential and hence to contribute to a sustainable energy future.

Scientific aim: 

The two PhD positions connect to the two main aims within the project: understanding how to achieve and exploit vibrational excitation in CO2 for a surface reaction with carbon (the reverse Boudouard reaction) and understanding the interplay between flow dynamics and the overall reactor power balance (reverse vortex in relation to heat recirculation, supersonic flow in relation to vibrational non-equilibrium). Laser Raman scattering is the baseline diagnostic for achieving such understanding in the microwave plasma reactors.

Responsibilities and tasks: 

- Perform laser Raman spectroscopy to investigate in situ excitation distributions.

- Perform ex situ Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy to monitor reactor performance.

- Develop advanced reactor (flow) geometries.

- Develop (laser) diagnostic for flow characterization.

The project will be carried out under the supervision of Gerard van Rooij and Michael Gleeson and in collaboration with Shell.


You are excited to work in an international environment. We will consider applicants with a Master’s degree in Physics, Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering. Preferably you have experience with laser spectroscopy.

Employment conditions: 

DIFFER (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research) is one of the NWO institutes and focuses on a multidisciplinary approach of the energy research combining physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science. The institute is based on two main strands, solar fuels for the conversion and storage of renewable energy and fusion-energy as clean and unlimited source of energy. DIFFER is developing and supporting a national network on fundamental energy research and is closely collaborating with academic institutions, research institutes and industry. As of 2015 the institute is located in a new building at the campus of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).


Our institute offers a first class and international research environment with various interdisciplinary but related research topics and projects. When fulfilling a PhD position at DIFFER, you will have an employee status  as  junior scientist at NWO. You  can participate in all the employee benefits NWO offers. NWO and DIFFER have number of regulations that support employees in finding a good work-life balance. Such as conditions for teleworking, partly paid parental leave and the possibility to purchase and sell holiday leave. You will get a contract for four years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 2,879 euro gross per month. The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8 percent and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33 percent.  A training programme is part of the agreement. You and your supervisor will design a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need. The doctoral degree will be awarded by the Eindhoven University of Technology (www.tue.nl). General information on working at NWO can also be found at the NWO website (www.nwo-i.nl).

Further information: 

The 'NWO job interview code' applies to this position. DIFFER strives to achieve a diverse workforce to develop talent and creativity by bringing together different perspectives. As such we encourages applications from women and minorities. Further information on the vacancy is available through Dr. Gerard van Rooij, tel: +31 (0) 40 3334 744, email: g [368] j [368] vanrooij [28] differ [368] nl

Application procedure: 

In case you are interested you can apply by submitting an application letter, a grade list and full resume. Please refer to vacancy 18.001. The letter of application and other documents may be sent electronically as single PDF-files, to vacancies [28] differ [368] nl.

Closing date: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Vacacany number: