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As up to 90% of chemical production processes contain a separation procedure, these separations account for 40 to 70% of the global capital and operational costs incurred by the process industry. There exists a clear need for the development of cost efficient separation techniques. Intensifying chemical/biochemical separation processes will have a huge impact on cost and energy savings leading ultimately to greener manufacturing.

Recently Vito and UAntwerpen developed a new ceramic functionalization methodology, FunMemTM, that can be applied to metal oxide based ceramic membranes known for their excellent structural, thermal, physical and chemical stability explaining their broad organic solvent stability. The innovative Grignard grafting method of VITO/UA provides a stable hybrid organic-inorganic material, and allows a broad range of functionalities next to hydrophobisation.

These membranes can lead to affinity-based separations governed by the affinity of the functional groups. Particularly, molecules with very similar size can be separated based on their membrane-molecule affinity difference, and preferential transport (i.e. negative retentions) is observed for molecules with a specifically high solute-membrane affinity in organic solvent nanofiltration.

The cheminformatics team of ICOA, CNRS-Univ Orléans led by Pr. Pascal Bonnet develops and applies in silico tools to understand molecular systems and interactions involved in several areas. The research of ICOA/VITO in this project, will aim at understanding the fine interplay between solute, solvent and surface at the atomistic level by developing modelling tools. Understanding the interaction of organically modified metal oxides with the environment is key to develop predictive models that could be implemented during the design of tailor-made ceramic membranes for specific processes.

The PhD candidate will develop in silico tools to analyse and understand on a molecular basis the flow mechanism of solutes through the functionalized ceramic membrane. By using statistical models and molecular dynamics simulations, the candidate will determine which descriptors and parameters are the most relevant for affinity separation using membrane nanofiltration. Understanding, quantifying and predicting interactions makes a direct contribution to further understand and control the performance of these materials that will be used in membrane-assisted process intensification.


Collaboration with University of Orleans

Registration deadline: 3/06/2019




This PhD will considerably advance the state-of-the-art in optimal valorization and aggregation of energy flexibility by developing, integrating and exploiting novel algorithms for the dynamic quantification of uncertainty and risks regarding energy flexibility.

· In the state-of-the-art of flexibility research, emerging uncertainty is explored and sampled when modelling and optimizing flexibility, but precise definitions and quantifications are lacking.

· This uncertainty will be quantified during this PhD research, using appropriate data science techniques to calculate the risk-of-unexpected-unavailability of the flexibility that was offered earlier, and that take this risk into account when valorizing the energy flexibility in different applications and markets. The result will be that a larger scala of flexibility carriers and types can be valorized.

· The risk factors will be explored and quantified from the points-of-views of the flexibility buyer and the flexibility provider, and applied/adapted to a broad spectrum of energy generating/consuming device types. Ultimately the goals is to provide an approach that can be applied to any type of energy flexibility carriers, including those that cannot be explicitly modelled using a white box or grey box approach

· Novel optimization algorithms will be developed that maximize the reward functions for either and both points-of-view in the context of current and future energy and energy-flexibility markets.


Collaboration with University of Ghent
Registration deadline: 3/06/2019




Would you like to improve your career opportunities even more by gaining a doctorate? If so, be sure to familiarize yourself with the opportunities that VITO is able to offer you! Take a look at our PhD topic list.

VITO supports applicants wanting to do research for four years under the leadership of a university supervisor and a co-supervisor from VITO, resulting in the achievement of a doctorate and tying in with other research done at VITO.

Various options are possible:

VITO doctoral grant

At various times each year, VITO publishes a number of doctorate subjects, with the object of supporting VITO research. These subjects are selected carefully in advance, in the context of strategic collaboration with the university supervisor. As such, both the subject and the supervisor will have been established when an applicant starts his doctorate. The subjects selected for doctorates are usually very much application-oriented. View our PhD topic list to select a subject to get more information and apply. Check the PhD regulations for the acceptance criteria (degree, topic,...).

If you are selected you will be notified. From that moment on you get the chance to work out a PhD proposal, together with your promotor at VITO and your university supervisor. You will have to present your PhD proposal to the doctoral jury at VITO.

FWO-VITO research mandate

On 8th June 2009, FWO and VITO signed a protocol to fund 2 additional doctorates next to the FWO doctoral mandates that are granted annually. This procedure starts by submitting a standard application for an FWO research mandate. Places will be offered to applicants who are ranked high enough and whose research proposal is situated within a strategic VITO domain. More info

Doctorate in the context of European collaboration

If you have a particular interest in international issues, a doctorate in the context of a European project could present you with a unique opportunity. VITO participates in European networks, in which doctorates abroad are often made available.