HORIZON – MSCA – Ph.D. position in next-generation cation exchange membranes for hypersaline solutions treatment

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network HORIZON – MSCA – 2021 – DN EXBRINER (http://exbriner.unical.it) is designed with the ambition to provide high level training to a talented cohort of 10 PhD students who will work in a multidisciplinary and international environment with the aim to develop next-generation membrane technologies for sustainable exploitation of desalination brine resources, thus accelerating the transition towards a Circular Blue Industry. EXBRINER is implemented through a cross-sectoral Network, composed by 9 European Universities, 2 Research Centres and 4 leading Industrial Companies from 8 EU Countries (Italy, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark France, Germany, Portugal, Spain), all with recognized excellence in the field of membrane engineering.

The doctoral program EXBRINER is built on three main pillars:

  • Design next-generation functional membrane materials for hypersaline brine treatment;
  • Implement membrane-based crystallization techniques for recovery of minerals;
  • Develop innovative electrochemical membrane processes for brine valorisation /energy generation.

Duties

The considered PhD project will contribute to EXBRINER Work Package 2 – Next-generation functional membranes for hypersaline brine treatment.

The main objectives are Development of novel high permselective and low-resistance membranes made by sulfonated thin film incorporating MOFs highly selective to monovalent alkali metal ions (i.e. ZIF-8, H-KUST-1, UiO-66), including Lithium.

The work will consider 1) optimization of the sulfonation degree – determined by elemental analysis and 1H NMR – of polymers (polysulfone, poly ether-ether-ketone-WC, poly-ethersulfone etc.) as a function of mechanical properties and permselectivity after preparing mixed matrix membrane via phase inversion method by blending MOFs in polymer-solvent-[co-solvent] solution; 2) mathematical modelling of electrically-driven ions transport through ion-selective membranes: Donnan potential, Nernst-Planck equation for the ionic flux, transport numbers, resistance of boundary layers, ion selectivity etc. coupled with experimental determination of ohmic/non-ohmic resistances (Membrane/Electrical Double Layer/Diffusion Boundary Layer resistances) at high salinity by Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy; and 3) comparative permselectivity tests against commercial CEMs.

Requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated, responsible and interested. A suitable applicant has an outstanding master's degree in Materials Engineering (preferably with a focus on polymer materials), Chemical Engineering (preferably with focus on Membranes Engineering), Physical Chemistry or similar. The project requires many skills, and an applicant should have a good knowledge in at least one, but preferably several, of the polymers synthesis techniques and membrane characterization methods, electroanalytical techniques and mathematical modelling in chemical engineering fields. Consideration will also be given to good collaborative skills, motivation, independence, communication and social skills. Very good written and oral communication skills in English are necessary. The mandatory eligibility requirements for a Doctoral Candidate position include (1) not having resided, worked or studied in the Czech Republic for more than 12 months within the 3 years prior to the start date of the PhD research and (2) being in his/her early research career and not to have been awarded a doctorate yet.

Organization and supervision

The applicant (first stage researcher R1) will be recruited at the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (UCTP). The UCTP ( in Czech “Vysoka skola chemicko-technologicka v Praze (VSCHT Praha)”) is the largest higher education institution devoted to teaching and research in the field of applied chemistry, biochemistry, material engineering and process design and control in the Central Europe. The main part of the PhD research (30 months) will be performed at UCTP under supervision of prof. Karel Bouzek (and co-supervised by Dr. Jaromir Hnat and Dr. Roman Kodym). The PhD project includes two academic research internships (2 months each) at Aalborg Universitet and Universidade Nova de Lisboa and one industrial secondment (2 months) at PCCell GmbH.

About the employment

Employment contract from UCTP for a full-time position of doctoral research for 36 months, with a monthly salary. Preferred starting date is the 1st of September, 2023. A monthly gross salary equals to 2,458.4 EUR. An additional family allowance is eligible when the researcher has a family upon recruitment or anytime during her/his employment.

Application procedure

To apply for the position, kindly provide the following via email to Tato e-mailová adresa je chráněna před spamboty. Pro její zobrazení musíte mít povolen Javascript. before the 28th of February, 2023:

  1. Copy of the first two and last two pages of the Passport for non-EU citizens or Identity card for EU citizens.
  2. Signed Letter of motivation, in English, covering the reason for application, skills and abilities, which make the applicant a good candidate, professional interests and expectations. Maximum one page.
  3. CV, in English, detailing academic studies, professional career, publications and other relevant achievements.
  4. Copy of academic qualification(s)/parchment(s) – in original language and translated to English or Czech language. Specify the name of the university issuing the degree, the date of graduation, the final score (list of exams and marks granted), and any other document considered useful (e.g. University Diploma Supplement).
  5. Letter of recommendation (max.2)
  6. Concise recognition on the state-of-the-art on the topic of ion transport in cation-selective membranes for hyper saline brine treatment. Concise recognition should be written in English in the range up to 4,000 characters.