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April 24th 2018

In the framework of the TKI project 'Plasma conversions' a postdoctoral position is available. In this project, DIFFER, ISPT, University of Twente, AkzoNobel, OCI Nitrogen, Shell, Vopak and Yara have combined efforts for enhancing conversion and energy-efficiency of renewable electrically-driven ammonia synthesis. Scientific aim: Ammonia is one of the most important and widely produced chemicals worldwide with a key role in the growth of human population. Nowadays, the main route for ammonia synthesis is the Haber-Bosch process developed a century ago. In this process, iron-based catalysts are usually employed at high temperatures and pressures. The dinitrogen bond is one of the strongest bonds in chemistry. Therefore artificial synthesis of ammonia under mild conditions is a challenge. In nature only bacteria and some plants can synthesise ammonia from air and water under these conditions. This project will explore the electrochemical route to ammonia synthesis at ambient pressure. The main advantages of such route are that renewable electricity can be employed to power the process, leaving no carbon footprint behind. Theoretical calculations suggest that energy efficiencies higher than the Haber-Bosch process can be achieved. Currently the electrochemical routes suffer from low selectivity towards ammonia at high current densities due to lack of activated nitrogen. In the current project the goal is to develop a plasma aided electrochemical method for improving the productivity. The role of plasma in the proposed process is to activate nitrogen and shift the selectivity towards ammonia synthesis even at higher current densities and thus improving the overall production rate to commercially viable levels.

Job description
The research tasks are highly interdisciplinary and will perfectly line up with emerging research lines and granted projects at DIFFER.
Responsibilities and tasks
• Development, characterization and evaluation of cathode electrodes.
• Fabrication of electrode/electrolyte formulations on proton conducting cells.
• Integration of the solid oxide electrolysis cell or polymeric electrolyte membrane cells with a plasma source.
• Prepare scientific papers and conference communications.
• Supervision of bachelor and master students.
• Contribute to the scientific and collaborative research environment at DIFFER.

DIFFER is the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, one of the nine research institutes of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The institute focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to energy research, combining physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science. DIFFER's research takes place in two main themes: Solar Fuels for the conversion and storage of renewable energy and Fusion Energy as a clean and unlimited source of energy. DIFFER develops and supports a national network on fundamental energy research and collaborates closely with the academic community and industrial partners.

We seek enthusiastic candidates that are willing to work in an international and interdisciplinary team of physicists and chemists. The candidate should have a PhD in physical chemistry; or solid state electrochemistry; or chemical engineering or high frequency plasma and has preferably postdoc experience. Knowledge in at least two of the following fields is required: solid state electrochemistry, gas analysis, experience in electrochemical reactor design and materials synthesis. Some background in vacuum or plasma technology will be highly appreciated. The successful candidate should have a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research. Good verbal and written communication skills (in English) are mandatory.
NWO-I prefers candidates who have qualifying experience (e.g. as PhD student or postdoctoral researcher) in a scientific research institute abroad.

Conditions of employment
You will be employed by NWO-I for a fixed period of two years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 4,237 euro gross per month, depending on your level of experience. The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8 percent and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33 percent. The conditions of employment of NWO-I are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres (Cao-Onderzoekinstellingen), more exclusive information is available at this website under Personeelsinformatie (in Dutch) or under Personnel (in English). General information about working at NWO-I can be found in the English part of this website under Personnel. The 'Recruitment code' applies to this position.

Further information on the vacancy is available through the leader of the Catalytic and Electrochemical Processes for Energy Applications group, Dr. M. Tsampas,  +31 40 333 48 20.

DIFFER strives to achieve a diverse workforce to develop talent and creativity by bringing together different perspectives. As such we encourage applications from women and minorities. In case you are interested you can apply by submitting an application letter, a grade list and full resume. Please refer to vacancy 18.007. The letter of application and other documents may be sent electronically as single PDF files.