PhD Detecting (nano)plastic in environmental samples via TGA-GCMS

Updated: 5 months ago
Deadline: 28 Feb 2023

PhD Detecting (nano)plastic in environmental samples via TGA-GCMS
PhD Detecting (nano)plastic in environmental samples via TGA-GCMS
Published Deadline Location
today 28 Feb Delft

Do you want to take on the challenge to detect and quantify (nano) plastic in environmental water samples? Join our team at TU Delft & KWR to work with both analytical and water treatment specialists.
Job description


Microplastics are now a candidate for the contaminant watch list of the European Union due to the growing concern about their effect on human health. This brings urgency to the development of reliable quantitative detection methods for polymers in environmental samples. Plastics are a diverse group of polymers and their detection at low mass and/or particle concentrations is challenging in environmental samples due to the presence of background organic matter. Much effort has been put into thermo-analytical techniques such as pyrolysis-GCMS (py-GCMS) or TGA-GC/MS in order to detect fingerprints of microplastics in the off-gas of the thermal units. Each polymer transforms into a variety of pyrolysis products which can lead to a unique fingerprint. In samples containing mixtures of polymers additional pyrolysis products can form due to the secondary reactions between pyrolysis products.1 Background natural organic matter (NOM) or biomass contains naturally occurring polymers and other constituents which form pyrolysis products that are also typical for e.g. polystyrene. Even after sample cleaning procedures targeting NOM, residual organics and minerals remain which can lead to an over- and also underestimation of plastic.2 First publications emerge this year trying to apply Py-GCMS analysis of concentrated environmental water samples to the detection of even smaller nanoplastic particles.3

Research topic
You will take on the challenge to improve the detection and quantification of plastic in environmental water samples. The focus of your work will be the analysis of nano-sized plastic and their detection across drinking and wastewater treatment plants using TGA-GCMS. 

You will:
You will take on the challenge to improve the detection and quantification of plastic in environmental water samples. The focus of your work will be the analysis of nano-sized plastic and their detection across drinking and wastewater treatment plants using TGA-GCMS. 

You will:

  • Compare and improve the preparation of environmental samples for (nano)plastic analytics.
  • Improve TGA-GCM methods for plastic detection and quantification.
  • Evaluate data using computational methods to detect and quantify polymers in complex mixtures. 4
  • Spend your time both at TU Delft and the Research facility KWR in Utrecht.
  • Work closely with experts on water treatment, analytical chemistry and fellow PhD researchers who are passionate about plastic in the environment.

The position is offered by Dr. Kim Lompe at TU Delft in collaboration with Dr. Patrick Baeuerlein at KWR (Utrecht) who will provide additional specific expertise and feedback to your research.

  • I. Coralli, V. Giorgi, I. Vassura, A. G. Rombolà and D. Fabbri, Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 2022, 161, 105377.
  • N. Bouzid, C. Anquetil, R. Dris, J. Gasperi, B. Tassin and S. Derenne, Journal, 2022, 1, 229-239.
  • Y. Xu, Q. Ou, M. Jiao, G. Liu and J. P. van der Hoek, Environmental Science & Technology, 2022, 56, 4988-4997.
  • X. Tian, F. Beén and P. S. Bäuerlein, Environmental Research, 2022, 212, 113569.

  • Specifications
    • 36—40 hours per week
    • €2541—€3247 per month
    • Delft View on Google Maps

    Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)



    • Background in analytical chemistry, Environmental Engineering or related field.
    • Programming skills in R/Matlab/Pyton and willingness to improve these.
    • Interest in water treatment technology.
    • Initiative and engineering spirit to solve problems hands-on.
    • Good communication skills to communicate with supervisor and colleagues.
    • English Proficiency Test IELTS of 7.0 (scores of at least 6.5 in all sections) or TOEFL of 100 (scores of at least 2.1 for all sections). For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.


    • Experience working with plastic analysis.
    • (Basic) knowledge of machine learning such as random forest or knn.
    • (Basic) knowledge of signal processing and database management.
    • Experience with water sampling/ plastic sampling.
    • Knowledge on drinking water treatment technologies.

    Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements .

    Conditions of employment

    Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

    Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

    Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

    The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

    Delft University of Technology

    Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

    At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

    Challenge. Change. Impact!

    Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

    The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource depletion, urbanisation and the availability of clean water, conducted  in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced that Open Science helps to achieve our goals and supports its scientists in integrating Open Science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

    Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

    Additional information

    If you would like more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Kim Lompe, Assistant Professor in the Department Water Management ( ). 

    Working at TU Delft

    Join the oldest and largest technical university in the Netherlands. Work on clever solutions for worldwide challenges, to change the world and make an impact. Ready to bring your energy to our research?

    Challenge, change, impact!

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    Application procedure

    Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 28 February 2023 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

    • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
    • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
    • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.

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