PhD Student Position Enabling Renewable Energy Generation from Mixing Fresh and Sea Water. (4.5 + 4.6)


4.5 Fouling and Process Design
4.6 Fouling and Material Design

2 PhD student positions! 

There is growing societal need for generating power from renewable sources. By using power from renewable sources, climate change can be combatted and political dependency is eased. Reversed Electro Dialysis (RED) is a potentially very attractive technology for the generation of power from the mixing of river and sea water. In RED, river and sea water can exchange ions in an alternating pile of anion exchange membranes (AEM) and cation exchange membranes (CEM). The membranes generate a potential that is harvested as electrical power via electrodes at the end of the membrane pile.

The power production potential is huge at sites where rivers meet the sea. The RED technology is very clean as only water is mixed, a process that occurs anyhow. Within Wetsus the RED technology has been studied for 8 years. This development has been so successful that a consortium of companies has erected a pilot facility for testing under real life conditions.

Research challenge
Real life testing at the pilot facility has identified that fouling of the membrane surfaces leads to a decrease in power generation. Fouling is a complicated not yet well understood phenomenon as many kind of fouling substances like ions, organic matter and clay are present in the water and their effects are only partly known. To tackle this challenge two PhD projects have been identified that will be carried out in close cooperation. The first project (4.5) “Fouling and Process Design” aims at identifying the effect of individual fouling compounds and revealing the mode of action of the main one(s). Based on these insights process modifications including pre-treatment will be proposed and tested. The second project (4.6) “Fouling and Material Design” investigates the interactions at the membrane-feed interface and methods to control these interactions. It aims at modifying the membrane surface to reduce the effect of foulants on power production. 

We are looking for a candidate for project 4.5 with an MSc degree in the field of environmental engineering, electrochemical process engineering, or physical chemistry. For project 4.6 we are looking for a candidate with an MSc degree in organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, membrane technology or a related field with a strong physical chemistry or chemistry background and scientific attitude. Candidates should have excellent experimental and theoretical skills.

For both projects it is required that the candidates have a driving license as the pilot plant is difficult to reach by public transportation. 

Our offer
Doing a PhD in the Netherlands takes 4 year.
You earn a salary to make a living.
In year 1 the salary is €30.674, in year 4 €39.214 before tax.
The amount of paid holiday days is 35/year. 

These research projects are part of the Wetsus research theme Blue Energy
The following companies are part of this theme:
Alliander, Fuji Film, Landustrie, Magneto Special Anodes, A. Hak, REDstack 

The Blue Energy theme is a world leading research theme in the field of Blue Energy. Productivity in terms of scientific publications and patents is high. Additionally, the industrial participants are strongly involved in the projects and carry the responsibility for the Blue Energy pilot plant on the Afsluitdijk. The proposed research approach that combines laboratory research with pilot plant performance testing using real feed waters at the Afsluitdijk is essential for fouling investigation and strengthens this collaboration. 

Project 4.5
Promotor: C.J.N. Buisman, Wageningen University (Environmental Technology) 

Project 4.6
Promotor: Kitty Nijmeijer, Eindhoven University of Technology (Membrane Materials and Processes) 

For more information contact: Michel Saakes (

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