PhD position: “Fundamentals of Plasmon Catalysis”

DIFFER (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research) is one of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) institutes and focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to 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).

In the Nanomaterials for Energy Applications (NEA) group at DIFFER we use plasmonics for chemistry: we synthesize plasmonic nanomaterials for energy conversion, heterogeneous catalysis, and sensing applications and characterize their photochemical properties in ensemble and in single particles. We are a diverse and international group of scientists with backgrounds in chemistry, physics, and materials science and a passion for understanding. We love to tackle fundamental questions at the intersection between these fields and we spend a considerable amount of time looking at microscope pictures of tiny objects.

PhD position: “Fundamentals of Plasmon Catalysis”
Scientific aim: 

Metal nanoparticles are efficient catalysts for a variety of chemical reactions. In recent years, it has been shown that their catalytic activity and selectivity can be enhanced by shining light on them, thanks to so-called plasmon resonances: light-driven collective oscillations of their free electrons. The mechanism of such “plasmonic” activation of catalysis is still a matter of intense debate. In this PhD program you will tackle this fundamental scientific question with a highly multidisciplinary approach. You will first synthesize shape- and size-controlled catalytic metal nanostructures, such as homogeneous and hetero-metallic particles, nanoparticle dimers, and core@shell catalysts, using both colloidal chemistry and nanolithography techniques. You will then characterize their catalytic performances in model chemical reactions and under controlled experimental conditions. Finally, you will corroborate ensemble experiments with single-particle optical microscopy studies and numerical simulations of light absorption and scattering at the nanoscale. Your research will lead to a new understanding of (photo)chemical reactions at the surface of metal nanoparticles, with applications in heterogeneous catalysis and photothermal processes.


You should have a strong background (and, of course, a Master degree) in chemistry, physics, materials science, or a related subject. Prior experience in wet chemical synthesis, optical microscopy and spectroscopy, or nanophotonics is not required, but is considered a plus. You should also have very good verbal and written communication skills in English. An outgoing and positive personality is not needed, but will certainly make the whole PhD much more fun!

Employment conditions: 

DIFFER is the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, one of the nine research institutes of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In our institute we focus 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. At DIFFER we develop and support a national network on fundamental energy research and collaborate closely with the academic community and industrial partners. The present vacancy is for a PhD position in the Nanomaterials for Energy Applications (NEA) group of dr. Andrea Baldi, which is part of the Solar Fuels theme.

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, the possibility to purchase and sell holiday leave, and a mentoring program. You will get a contract for four years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 3,007 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 program is part of the agreement: you and your supervisor will design a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need, for example through several courses offered by NWO (see General information on working at NWO can also be found at the NWO website (

Further information: 

The NWO Recruitment code applies to this position. At DIFFER we believe that a workforce diverse in gender, age and cultural background is key to performing excellent research. We therefore strongly encourage applications from women and minorities in general. In our institute physicists, chemists, engineers and other specialists work together in multidisciplinary teams to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society. DIFFER’s workforce is currently composed of ~160 scientists (of which 60 guests and interns), supported by ~40 technicians and ~30 support staff members. The global nature of the energy challenge is apparent from the international representation of our employees, who originate from over 30 different countries. To strengthen our commitment to diversity, in January 2018 we formed a taskforce with the aim to design, implement, and monitor diversity and gender equality initiatives. Further information on the vacancy is available through dr. Andrea Baldi (a [368] baldi [28] differ [368] nl).

Application procedure: 

You can apply by submitting the following three documents, in pdf format, to vacancies [28] differ [368] nl:

  1. Your curriculum vitae, including contact details of at least two references;
  2. A cover letter addressed to dr. Andrea Baldi of maximum 1 page, summarizing the aspects in your curriculum that fit with the current opening and describing your motivation to apply to this position;
  3. A list of relevant grades.

Please use “Application to vacancy number 19.005"  as the email subject.

Closing date: 
Friday, March 29, 2019
Vacacany number: 

Go to the Vacancies page.