Two of the major hurdles for the chemical industry transition toward the “chemical factory of the future” are the ability to design (i) efficient and selective catalytic transformations of renewables and (ii) eco-efficient separation processes to retrieve and purify the product(s) and catalyst(s). Future generations of researchers (academic & industry) will need to be trained and equipped with these skills.

In the proposed PhD project, the candidate will experimentally study the integration of membranes in various catalysed reactions with hybrid membranes and compare results to commercial polymeric membrane performance. At VITO, he/she will study the effect of changes to the surface polarity, via modification with organic functional groups, of ceramic membranes on primarily separation performance but also reaction performance. This will include the effect of the membrane modification on catalyst recyclability and stability. To achieve this, he/she will integrate the hybrid membranes into reaction processes to allow separation of reaction products from catalysts but also where possible the recycling of active catalytic species. The candidate will spend 2 months in industry to acquire knowledge on process design for industrial applications. During a 12 month period in the University of Rennes the candidate will study OSN in toluene with alternative polymeric membranes. The preparation of the PhD thesis will be finalized at VITO and defence at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Job description

You prepare a doctoral thesis in the field of homogeneous organometallic catalysed reactions with integrated membrane separation, which will be carried out at Vito and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, with secondment periods in industry and Université de Rennes.

The promotors of the thesis will be Prof. Bart van der Bruggen and Dr. Dominic Ormerod.  

You publish scientific articles related to the research project of the assignment.

You defend your results for a PhD jury in order to obtain the PhD grade.


You recently received you master grade in chemistry or chemical engineering with distinction.

You have an affinity/interest in organic synthesis and purification steps of the synthesized products.

You are really hands-on, performing your tests in the lab, assist in the construction design of a reactor set-up.

Our offer:

VITO and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven offer a PhD scholarship to the candidate for 4 years. As part of a network based on academia and industrial partners an inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral European Joint Doctorate program offering challenging and innovative research in the field of sustainable catalytic synthesis and sustainable membrane separation processes; the candidate will benefit from training through a research project conducted in two academic sites plus an industrial secondment. Complementary science communication skills will be acquired during network events, interdisciplinary summer schools, workshops and a collective research project with the other PhD candidates in the consortium.

How to apply?

Applications should be submitted online on the web address below and should include a copy of your CV and a cover letter. The remainder of the selection procedure is specific to the position and will be determined by the selection panel.

Application deadline: August 31, 23:59 (Paris) 2023