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PhD position: organic micro-pollutants (OMPs) in surface water

Job description

There is growing awareness and concern about the presence of so called organic micro-pollutants (OMPs) in our surface water. OMPs are very small organic molecules (100-1000 Da), stemming from medicinal or industrial origin that have the potential to cause long-term harm to humans and the environment. Municipal waste water treatment plants (MWTPs) are considered a hotspot for the release of OMPs into the environment as most OMPs end up in our wastewater, while our MWTPS were never designed for their removal. Techniques to remove these OMPs from the waste water effluent are available, but are too costly and energy intensive and unsustainable. In this project, academia, knowledge institutes and industry will work together to develop an affordable and sustainable technology to remove OMPs from waste water effluents. A novel nanofiltration membrane will be developed that discharges very clean effluent, while an OMP concentrate is further degraded in a conventional bioreactor.

In this PhD project we focus on the design and operation of the required nanofiltration membrane. For this we turn to the self-assembly of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes at the interface of a porous support membrane. In this so-called Layer-by-Layer assembly, the support membrane is alternatively exposed to polycations and polyanions, to build polyelectrolyte multilayer’s (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 such as pH and ionic strength. This method thus allows the design of a membrane with optimal MP removal, by careful choice of the density, charge density and hydrophilicity of the PEM layer. Specifically we will focus on the design of a membrane with a very high OMP retention (>99%), while we also desire a very low ion retention. In this way it will be possible to separate the OMPs without altering the ionic composition of the waste stream. The PhD student will also be partly responsible for the design and build of a substantial (500 liter/hour) pilot installation to validate the designed membranes under realistic conditions.

The project described here is part of a larger project (see also: https://www.utwente.nl/en/news/2019/9/517806/nwo-ttw-grant-for-novel-technology-for-filtering-organic-micro-pollutants). In this context the PhD student will work together with two other PhD students, one of whom will work on process modeling and design (UT) and one that will work on OMP degradation in bio-reactors (WUR). Furthermore the PhD student will work closely together with the industrial partners within the project.

Your profile

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 membrane technology, water treatment, operation of pilot installations and/or polyelectrolyte multilayer deposition. You have the ability to work independently and as a member of a research team, while demonstrating a collaborative attitude. Especially important in this project will be the ability to communicate effectively with the many shareholders in the project, including the other PhD students and the industrial participants.

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, will be part of the interview procedure.

Our offer

We offer you an inspiring multidisciplinary and challenging international and academic environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda.

You will be fulltime employed for four years. Salary and conditions will be in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement (CAO-NU) of the Dutch Universities.

A starting salary of € 2,325.00 in the first year and a salary of € 2,972.00 in the fourth year gross per month;

  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 232 holiday hours in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs;
  • Costs for moving to Enschede may be reimbursed


INFORMATION AND APPLICATION

Questions regarding these positions can be directed to Prof. Wiebe M. de Vos (w.m.devos@utwente.nl, phone: +31 53 489 4495).

Please send your application with c.v. (including contact information for at least two academic references), via the link below. If possible, please add a list of grades of both your BSc and MSc diploma.

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

Within the TNW Faculty (Faculty of Science & Technology) of the University of Twente some 700 staff members and 2000 students are involved in training and research on the interface of chemical technology, applied physics and biomedical technology. Fields of application include sustainable energy, process technology and materials science, nanotechnology and technical medicine. Research, which enjoys a high profile both at home and internationally, has been accommodated in the multidisciplinary research institutes MESA+ and MIRA. The faculty works together intensively with industrial partners and researchers in the Netherlands and abroad and conducts extensive research for external commissioning parties and funders.

PhD position: organic micro-pollutants (OMPs) in surface water
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