PhD position in Scalability of microbial electrosynthesis from CO2

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 30 Nov 2023

PhD position in Scalability of microbial electrosynthesis from CO2 

Power-to-Chemicals and Power-to-Fuels processes are the future of the chemical industry. The chemical industry is a major greenhouse gas emitter. To meet their GHG emission reduction target, the chemical industry must use alternative carbon sources (e.g. CO2) and electricity-based processes (Power-to-X). The perspective of a highly electrified chemical industry where renewable feedstocks and energy are the basic ingredients of chemicals is very appealing to many societal, industrial and governmental stakeholders. Microorganisms are able to grow on electrodes and utilize renewable electricity to convert CO2 to valuable chemicals. This Power-to-X process is called microbial electrosynthesis (MES), and is the focus of this PhD project. This PhD project is part of a larger project (2 PhD and 2 postdocs) and a consortium composed of four international companies, which all together will develop a scalable MES process that produces hexanoic acid (C6, a major base chemical) from CO2 and renewable electricity. Our distinctive approach will elucidate how to avoid rate and yield limiting steps from micrometer to meter scale, by guiding experiments and reactor/electrode design with comprehensive multiscale modelling. We will use the attained insights on the working mechanisms of MES to develop a scalable process capable of producing pure hexanoic acid from CO2 under industrially relevant conditions.

The task of the PhD candidate will be to:

1) characterize the interaction between the newly synthesized electrode materials (from one of the postdocs) and the biocatalyst (i.e. biofilm), with an emphasis on microbial kinetics, microbial physiology, and transport phenomena, and

2) build, test and characterize new scalable bioreactor concepts. The expected outcome is a PhD thesis on the topic. The PhD candidate will also be involved in teaching activities, as course assistant and as supervisor of BSc/ MSc graduation projects.

The ideal candidate:

  • Has a master degree in (bio)chemical engineering, biotechnology, or equivalent degree with an appropriate specialization.
  • Is highly motivated and an enthusiastic researcher, with a keen interest in bridging several fields, i.e. microbiology/microbial physiology, mixed culture fermentation, electrochemistry, and material sciences.
  • Is a strong experimentalist, with experience related to the topic.
  • Has strong analytical skills, and a keen interest in the interpretation of complex data.
  • Is skilled in critical and conceptual thinking for finding and selecting process options that are worthy of experimental study.
  • Has a sound knowledge basis on (microbial) reaction thermodynamics, kinetics, transport phenomena, microbial physiology, electrochemistry, as well as microscopy techniques.
  • Is fluent in English, has good communicative/reporting skills, and team working capacity.

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 .

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 € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 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, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme  for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

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!

With more than 1,100 employees, including 150 pioneering principal investigators, as well as a population of about 3,600 passionate students, the Faculty of Applied Sciences is an inspiring scientific ecosystem. Focusing on key enabling technologies, such as quantum- and nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and materials for energy storage and conversion, our faculty aims to provide solutions to important problems of the 21st century. To that end, we educate innovative students in broad Bachelor's and specialist Master's programmes with a strong research component. Our scientists conduct ground-breaking fundamental and applied research in the fields of Life and Health Science & Technology, Nanoscience, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Science & Technology, and Engineering Physics. We are also training the next generation of high school teachers.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.


Innovation is crucial to fulfil the potential of industrial biotechnology for sustainable production of fuels, chemicals, materials, food and feed. Similarly, scientific and technological advances in environmental biotechnology are needed to enable novel approaches to water purification, and ‘waste-to-product’ processes thus contributing to a circular economy. Increased fundamental knowledge encompassing enzymes, microorganisms and processes are essential for progress in this field. The Department of Biotechnology covers this research area and, based on new insights, selects, designs and tests new biobased catalysts, micro-organisms, and processes.

The position is available in the section Bioprocess Engineering.

Only for more information about this vacancy, contact Dr. Ludovic Jourdin, per e-mail

Only for information about the application procedure, please contact Ms. Kawieta Ramautar, Management Assistant, per e-mail (   

* It is our aim to have the interviews on 25 October, 3 November or 6 November 2023.

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 15 October 2023 via the application button and upload only your motivation and CV.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Applying for an exemption for specific research and educational areas is an obligatory part of the selection procedure for this vacancy. This exemption must be obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) before an employment contract is agreed upon. Click here for more information.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

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