PhD position in Functional Materials

Updated: 3 months ago
Deadline: 30 Sep 2022

(ref. BAP-2022-650)

Laatst aangepast : 30/08/2022

KU Leuven is one of the top 50 universities in the world, and has been ranked as the most innovative university in Europe, and 7th in the world (Reuters, 2019). The New Materials group at Campus Bruges belongs to the Department of Materials Engineering, and has a strong focus on polymer materials. The group has two subgroups, Propolis concentrates mainly on polymer processing, whereas the Interfacial and Surface Engineering Research group (iR group) focuses on the development of novel and advanced (polymer) materials through modification of material interfaces for several application domains (health, energy, transport). The project is a collaboration between the New Materials group (iR subgroup), the M group (mechatronics, sensors) and the Faculty of Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, all hosted on Campus Bruges.


Functional materials have gained a lot of interest over the last years. In contrast to conventional materials, auxetic materials have a negative Poisson ratio, which means they get narrower in all directions when they are subjected to compression. Auxetic materials are of interest because of their mechanical properties such as shear resistance and energy absorption. Auxetic foams have been produced; however, their micro-scale structure is hard to control and they do not have good repeat cell patterns. Moreover, bio-inspired shape memory polymers see interesting developments. Such polymers may respond autonomously to an external stimulus such as heat, light or chemical conditions. For example, electro-active polymers known as artificial muscles show a mechanical response or shape change upon an electrical stimulation.

The goal of the PhD project is to develop a reversible shape-adaptable material that may have many applications. The research will involve new material synthesis with a focus on electro-active shape memory polymers, auxetic materials and 3D printing techniques. Moreover, physical and chemical characterization methods and material testing techniques will be used.

Successful completion of the research project will result in a number of scientific international journal papers and a PhD at the Faculty of Engineering Technology (KU Leuven). Results from the research will be published in international scientific journals, and will be presented at conferences and to interested companies and potential users.


We are looking for a first-class, motivated, hard-working PhD candidate, who will conduct innovative research in the field of materials engineering. The ideal candidate has excellent chemical and engineering laboratory skills, and a strong interest in functional polymer materials.

The candidate:

  • Achieved a European master degree in engineering technology, materials engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry or equivalent within the last two year and ranks within the top 10% of his/her class
  • Has a strong interest and knowledge in the field of functional polymer material synthesis, material characterization, and physical chemistry of interfaces
  • Has strong communication skills and is willing to present their research results at national and international conferences, and on social media, as well as writing research papers for publication in international peer-reviewed journals
  • Is willing to help in teaching activities and co-supervision of undergraduate projects
  • Is willing to write a PhD fellowship proposal
  • Is flexible, has good time management skills and self-discipline, can work independently as well as in a team
  • Has a creative, critical,analytical and innovative mindset
  • Is very fluent in English both spoken and written
  • Having authored or co-authored peer-reviewed publications is a plus
  • Speaking Dutch is a plus


The successful candidate will be hired as a PhD researcher. We offer a full-time one year contract which can be prolonged to four years upon positive evaluation. Your main working place is the Brugge campus.

The KU Leuven pursues a policy of equal opportunity and diversity.

Start date: as soon as possible


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Veerle Vandeginste, tel.: +32 50 66 49 32, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Hans Hallez, tel.: +32 50 66 48 38, mail:

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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