PhD Positions

PhD 2: Charge mapping using AFM Spectroscopy Local surface charge density and stability of carbonates-electrolyte interfaces studied by Atomic Force spectroscopy

Job Description

At the University of Twente (the Netherlands) within the MESA+ institute for nanotechnology a research program will start early 2018, aimed at understanding physico-chemical aspects of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) using low-salinity water-flooding in Carbonate reservoirs. The research will be done in consultation with an industrial partner, and involves 5 temporary researchers in Twente.

The goal of this project is to provide high resolution characterization of the morphology of the surface of calcium carbonates using AFM imaging and to determine its surface charge using AFM spectroscopy.  The local surface charge should be a critical indicator of the chemical composition of the surface, in particular in the case of adsorption of ions such as  or  and organic molecules. Mapping the heterogeneity of the surface charge and its response to the fluid composition and temperature has to be the primary task of the PhD student. Quantitative modeling of the data should provide insights into the heterogeneity of surfaces and eventually yield binding constants (pK values) for the local adsorption of various ions using established numerical data analysis procedures.  The experiments will start with commercially available single crystalline surfaces of calcite and will subsequently be extended to other polymorphs and to natural calcium carbonates surface. The comparison should indicate the microscopic chemical composition differences between the idealized model systems and the natural rock surfaces. The second phase of this project will be devoted to high resolution imaging and systematic study of adsorption processes as a function of the composition of the brine for a series of specific organic water-soluble molecules such as short chain fatty acids or comparable amines and aromatic molecules of surface of calcium carbonate. In the end, we want to identify the relative adsorption strength specific organic molecules on different facets of calcite crystals and to other polymorphs of CaCO3.

Your Profile

For this position we are searching for ambitious candidates with an MSc or MEng degree in (physical) chemistry or (experimental) physics. Ideally candidates already have practical experience in scanning probe microscopy. Considering the strongly collaborative nature of the project within the program, we are looking for a team player with good communication skills. Further information can be found on our website: or obtained by contacting Prof. Frieder Mugele (f.mugele @ or Dr. Igor Siretanu (i.siretanu @


Applications are welcome before December 10, 2017 and should include a specific motivation letter reflecting on the goal and challenges of the advertised project in relation to the interests and skills of the candidate as well as a detailed CV.

More information about the project