Have you recently successfully defended your doctorate degree in engineering or science? Do you wish to expand your career opportunities by doing a post doctorate?

Available Jobs




VITO is a leading research center in Flanders (Belgium) in the field of technology development for sustainable processes. The Unit of Separation and Conversion Technology (SCT), has a strong focus on bio- or CO2-based routes. VITO’s biotechnology team has a long-standing and unique expertise in gas fermentations, and in design, operation and optimization of enzymatic and whole cell bioconversion processes, tested either in stand-alone mode or coupled to membrane technology. The team consists of permanent researchers, engineers, technicians, PhD and postdoctoral students and wishes to expand with an extra postdoctoral researcher. More information available on www.vito.be or https://vito.be/en/theme/sustainable-chemistry.


Equal opportunity position


Job Description:

  • You will be working on multidisciplinary projects aiming at developing, optimizing and intensifying biotechnological processes (both whole cell and enzymatic conversions)
  • You will perform lab work as well as design and set up experiments and analyze data
  • You will handle several projects running in parallel
  • You are eager to run complex lab installations and long-term challenging biotech experiments
  • You will work independently towards the project goal, take responsibility for high quality results and reporting
  • You will work in an international team and context

POSTDOC Unraveling Catalytic Reductive Depolymerization of lignin by developing lignin solubility models


Host institute

The Unit of Separation and Conversion Technology (SCT, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, VITO) develops technologies for the sustainability of production processes in the (bio)chemical sector, replacement of fossil resources by renewable feedstocks for the chemical industry and the treatment of waste streams into high value chemicals. A strategic research theme is focusing on the use of wood/lignin as an alternative feedstock for the production of biobased aromatics. Due to its aromatic nature, lignin is considered as a valuable alternative for the production of aromatic bio-based molecules. Various phenol derivatives with a variety of chemical structures can be produced by cleaving the lignin structure.
In this respect, VITO is co-initiator of Biorizon, an industry driven Shared Research Center, focusing on technology development for the production of functionalized, biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals & coatings. As the leading institute, VITO coordinates the development of lignin derived bio-aromatics by its own technology and by collaboration with different technology providers.
More information available on www.vito.be and www.biorizon.eu



Up to  now, VITO  has developed strong expertise in the valorization of biomass through conversion of lignocellulose into value-added lignin fragments and bio-aromatic derivatives. These new lignin-derived building blocks are consequently evaluated for their application potential as polymer building blocks or functional additives. However, it turned out that the lignin characteristics and solubility are critical for a techno-economic feasible catalytic depolymerization process resulting in bioaromatic oils. 


We are looking for a PhD graduate for 18 months postdoctoral research to work  in a joint collaboration between VITO’s  bioaromatics team and KULeuven (Bert Sels group) with a focus on the development of lignin solubility model to link lignin characteristics with their performance in the further catalytic depolymerization to bioaromatic oils.   



Project Description

This position fits within a Flemish initiative to reduce CO2 emissions and strive for a carbon neutral industry by 2050, i.e. the moonshot programme. The programme is embedded in a strong academic network and steered by a strong industrial governance board. This research project will involve aspects of characterization of the various lignin sources, developing a model for lignin solubility and correlating this with the outcome of a subsequent process of reductive catalytic depolymerization.

The following tasks/actions are foreseen in our project to be conducted by the candidate, focusing on the development of a models for predicting lignin solubility towards defined bioaromatic oils (both via modelling and experimental work):

  • Active literature survey, keeping up to date with relevant articles and patents in the fields
  • Detailing out the work protocol after discussion with the experts involved
  • Datamining of the existing data on solubility of lignins and resulting oils after reductive catalytic depolymerization
  • Execution of the experiments/tasks in a timely and efficient manner according to the overall project planning
  • You develop a solubility model for lignin, based on existing data and characteristics
  • You make correlations between the lignin characteristics and solubility and bioaromatic oil yields
  • You are familiar with simulation software
  • You follow-up the validation and optimization of the developed models
  • Preparing presentations for the meetings/reports
  • Scientific output and/or patent submission as a result of the work would be highly recommended
  • Ensure compliance with VITO’s Health & Safety Policy, and take a proactive approach to ensure all experimental work is safe

Starting date: 1/2/2020

Contact persons for more information:

Kathy Elst - kathy.elst@vito.be

Karolien Vanbroekhoven - karolien.vanbroekhoven@vito.be



VITO is a a leading European independent research in the areas of cleantech and sustainable development. Its research programme ‘Sustainable Materials Management’ has the ambition to accelerate the transition to a more circular economy from a materials perspective. One of our core research activities is the development of technologies for shaping powders into added value products (granulates, microspheres, 3D-structures, foams,…) for use in different industrial applications, like separation of valuable compounds, advanced catalyst materials and energy storage.
Recently we invested in our technology platform to broaden the range of material compositions and architectures. The use of flow reactors for chemical applications has become a fast growing area for a wide range of reaction types. The control over fluid dynamics is outstanding in microreactors enabling the construction of highly precise controlled architectures such as spherical particles. As a post-doctoral fellow you will take an important role in the implementation of the technology for the development of uniformly shaped (hybrid) ceramic particles.   
The key challenges for material synthesis using a droplet micro reactor are the chemistry of the starting composition and the optimisation of the flow conditions. Particularly of interest is the use of sol-gel based systems, since they allow the synthesis of micro sized particles (1-100 µm). Flow environments (time, flow rate, pH, temperature) and junction size are the main parameters to control the droplet size and the synthesis chemistry of the final particles.
In our two year post-doctoral research project we will focus on the development of novel material concepts for metal scavengers and chromatography. A well equipped lab is available for the full material characterization.

Postdoc @ VITO

We offer you an outstanding research environment at the interface between the field of academic research and the applied industry.

Take a look at the postdoc topic list to see what VITO has in store for you.

VITO regularly launches a call for candidates who would like to do research as a postdoc researcher that supports the strategic research of VITO.

There are several possibilities:

VITO supports candidates who have already obtained a doctorate and who wish to apply for a scholarship within the framework of Marie Sklodowska-Curie, or for another grant. International exchanges are an asset in this case.

On 21st March 2013, FWO and VITO signed a protocol to fund 2 additional post doctorates next to the FWO mandates that are granted annually. This procedure starts by submitting a standard application for an FWO postdoc 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