Research challenge:
The subject of this project is the integration of enzymatic (trans)esterification with pervaporation. In cases where sensitive substrates are used, lipase catalysis has the edge over conventional catalysis. However, completion of a (trans)esterification requires continuous removal of by-products. The required technology depends on the physicochemical properties of the substrates and products. Nitrogen stripping of the mixture may lead to simultaneous removal of other close boiling substrates and products. Thermal separations are complicated by the presence of azeotropes and may require an auxiliary solvent acting as entrainer. Pervaporation has some distinct advantages in comparison to distillation to separate azeotropic mixtures. However, design rules and heuristics for systems where pervaporation is integrated with catalysis are scarce. Trial-and-error approaches can be applied in initial investigations when design parameters are scarce or even absent, but this often leads to disappointing or suboptimal results. Therefore, a trial-and-error approach should be complemented with more fundamental biochemical engineering principles to allow a quantitative understanding and finally, to allow the rational upscaling of such integrated systems.

The first objective of the project is a further experimental exploration of:
1. the esterification of sensitive substrates where lipase catalysis has the edge over conventional catalysis.
2. Membrane characterization in terms of flux and separation factor for a relevant concentration range.

The second and main objective is the technical integration of pervaporation with enzymatic ester synthesis leading to an improved quantitative understanding of such integrated systems. Currently, heuristics and rules-of-thumb for such integrations are scarce. Therefore, design rules based on sound (bio)chemical engineering principles will be developed to allow: 1. an economic evaluation in an early development phase, 2. sizing all components for such integrated concepts.

With this call, we invite researchers to submit their resumé (including track-record) and a one-page project description, that will be the basis for selecting candidates with whom we will collaborate for developing competitive MSCA-IF proposals.


Deadline application to VITO: Interested candidates should submit their resume (incl. track record) and a one-page note describing the project for which a Marie Curie grant will be applied, before Friday 17 April 2020 - 17h Brussels time.


Deadline MSCA-IF 2020: Wednesday 9 September 2020 17h Brussels time.


We invite applicants to propose a more detailed and focused research approach within the scope of this MSCA-IF Fellowship as a part of their application. We are primarily looking for experienced researchers who wish to use this period as an opportunity to further develop their research, and to develop longer-term research collaborations with VITO and other institutions conducting research in the field.
The candidates as in principle must be eligible for a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship – please refer to the conditions set-out in the H2020 MSCA Work Programme.

The following assets will be advantageous:
- PhD in Bioscience engineering / Chemical Engineering 
- An excellent track record in research, necessary for being able to develop a competitive Marie Curie Fellowship application;
- Already published relevant research work in prestigious scientific journals;
- An open and cooperation-oriented nature, but with strong abilities for independent research work;
- Highly proficient in spoken and written English.



Initially, we offer assistance in developing competitive Marie Curie Individual Fellowship proposals.

Then, to successful applicants to the Marie Curie program, we offer;
-An exciting opportunity at VITO, the independent Flemish research organisation in the area of cleantech and sustainable development. Our goal? To accelerate the transition to a sustainable world;
- Participation in a dynamic professional research & innovation community;
- Flexible working conditions;
- An inclusive and friendly work environment;
- On-boarding assistance and other services.