PhD position: Cavity Enhanced Nanochemistry

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).

PhD position: Cavity Enhanced Nanochemistry
Scientific aim: 

It has been recently shown that it is possible to control the rate of chemical reactions by strong coupling of molecular transitions to the vacuum electromagnetic field. For this purpose, chemical reactions are typically confined within a closed optical cavity composed of two parallel mirrors spaced by a controlled distance. The present research project studies how strong coupling affects the rate of chemical reactions, using open cavities made of plasmonic nanoparticle arrays. The arrays will be fabricated using e-beam and nano-imprint lithography techniques available at the Nanolab@TU/e. Strong coupling between collective plasmonic modes and electronic or vibrational modes of the reactant and product molecules will be achieved by tuning the cavity resonance frequency to the desired molecular transitions. Compared to classical optical cavities, the proposed nanophotonic geometry has the promise of a much greater ease of operation, spectral modulation, and detection of the reaction products.

Responsibilities and tasks: 

The proposed research is perfectly aligned to the current strategy at DIFFER, focused on fundamental research on novel materials, processes, and devices for energy conversion. The research tasks are highly interdisciplinary, ranging from nanophotonics modeling, to optical microscopy and spectroscopy, to the characterization of catalytic reactions. In particular, you will:

  • Select suitable model catalytic reactions to study under the strong coupling regime.
  • Perform numerical modeling of the optical modes of the cavity and find optimal nanoparticle array geometries.
  • Assemble a flow cell microscopy setup and study catalytic rates under strong coupling regimes.
  • Write scientific publications and present your work at national and international conferences.

We seek an outstanding candidate that is willing to work in an international and interdisciplinary team of physicists and chemists. You should have a recent Master degree in physics, chemistry, materials science or a closely related field. Prior experience in numerical modeling, nanophotonics, or optical microscopy and spectroscopy is not required, but is considered a plus. You should also have excellent verbal and written communication skills in English.

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 shared PhD position between the Nanomaterials for Energy Applications (NEA) group of dr. Andrea Baldi and the Photonics for Energy (PfE) group of prof. dr. Jaime Gomez Rivas.


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 The doctoral degree will be awarded by the Eindhoven University of Technology ( 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 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) or prof. dr. Jaime Gomez Rivas (J [368] GomezRivas [28] differ [368] nl).

Application procedure: 

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

  • Your curriculum vitae, including contact details of at least two references;
  • A cover letter addressed to dr. Andrea Baldi and prof. Jaime Gómez Rivas 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;
  • A list of relevant grades.

Please use “Application to vacancy number 19.007  as the email subject.

Closing date: 
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Vacacany number: 

Go to the Vacancies page.