Within the Unit of Sustainable Materials Management, there are ongoing research projects on the production and use of structured sorbent materials, e. g. porous microspheres or coatings, focusing on closing materials cycle. One of the tracks of the KMP (Ceramic Materials and Powder Metallurgy) team is the separation of valuables such as rare earth elements (REE) and precious or critical metals.

Different liquid streams may be identified, such as polluted waters or complex low grade industrial waste streams, on which adsorption using tailored sorbents is the most applicable technology. These are complex streams which different characteristics. For example, industrial wastewaters released in the environment having mild pH (~6 - 8), while complex hydrometallurgical leachates are characterized high pH (>12). Therefore, for their application, the sorbents have to be developed to address needs related not only with their sorption features (capacity, kinetics, selectivity) but also to meet requirements related with mechanical and chemical stability.

The PhD aims at the development of 3D structured sorbent materials with innovative composition for the removal of toxic heavy metals or separation and recovery of critical and economically valuable metals from complex liquid streams with pH ranging from neutral to highly alkaline values (>12).

The research will be conducted mainly from powder to structured materials, with focus on structural related aspects (for enhanced sorption properties and material stability under the (harsh) experimental conditions, e. g. high alkalinity) as well as architectural related aspects (enable ease of handling and lowering pressure drop).

For this project, we collaborate with the University of Antwerp (LADCA) on the basis of the granted joint patent on the production of sorbent materials for adsorption of metal oxyanions (e.g. chromates) (WO2019122398).

Collaboration with University of Antwerp
Registration deadline: 21/08/2020


  • You hold a Master's degree in Chemistry
  • You are fluent in English, both oral and written

The PhD student receives a PhD grant from the University of Antwerp. VITO concludes a financing agreement with the University of Antwerp, with VITO undertaking to provide an annual allowance matching the net remuneration of an assistant, plus management costs. The University of Antwerp will pay the selected PhD student a PhD grant matching the before mentioned net amount.