PhD Position: Atomic Force Microscopy for In-Operando Characterization of Photocatalyst Surfaces

Photocatalysis is a very promising approach that is believed to play an important role for our future energy supply. It makes use of light absorbing and catalytically active nanoparticles to convert sunlight directly into chemical fuels. Next to efficient light absorption and charge separation within the semiconducting nanoparticles, photocatalysis also requires an efficient charge transfer across the solid-liquid interface from the nanoparticles to the chemical reactants in the ambient water. This transfer depends on both the crystal structure (crystal facets, defects) of the solid as well as the composition of the fluid (e.g. pH, ions) and requires experimental techniques with nanometer spatial resolution that can operate in fluids.

Recently, the Physics of Complex Fluids (PCF) group and the PhotoCatalytic Synthesis (PCS) group within the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente joined forces to study microscopic aspects of the charge transfer process on the nanometer scale under operating conditions using a newly developed method based on high resolution atomic force microscopy. We are looking for highly motivated candidates for a

PhD position:

Atomic Force Microscopy for in- operando characterization of photocatalyst surfaces

The main objectives of the project are the following:

  1. develop an Atomic Force Microscopy method that allows to quantify the charge density of photo(electro)catalyst-electrolyte interfaces in water with nanometer lateral resolution under operando conditions with and without illumination and external bias voltage.
  2. characterize the local surface charge of various semiconductor nanoparticles (target materials: SrTiO3, BiVO4, WO3) with variable size, morphology (facets), internal structure (polymorphic state), and density of surface defects (including surface reconstruction) in contact with water.
  3. quantify variations of local photo-induced surface charge densities with fluid composition (pH, additives: inorganic ions)
  4. identify correlations between fluid composition, local surface charge distribution and macroscopic photocatalytic activity using AFM combined with in-situ gas chromatography.

You will be working in a strong team of researchers involving staff members and junior researchers from both groups.



For this position we are searching for an ambitious candidate with an MSc in physics or physical chemistry. Existing knowledge in surface and interface science and/or quantitative Atomic Force Microscopy/spectroscopy are advantageous. Considering the strongly collaborative nature of the project, we are looking for a team player with good communication skills. 

Information and application
Further information on the research groups can be found on the websites:  and or by contacting Prof. Frieder Mugele, ( or Prof. Guido Mul (

Applications are welcome till April 15, 2018 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. Please use the Digital Submission Portal of the University of Twente for your application.


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

  • The gross monthly salary starts with € 2222,- in the first year and increases to € 2840,- in the fourth year of your employment;
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs.


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.