PhD-student: 2 PhD positions on new concepts in electrocatalysis beyond the Sabatier principle

Date posted January 12, 2022
Type PhD positions

Catalysts are traditionally improved by searching for new combinations of materials or configurations that push the binding energy towards the ideal value. However, recently a completely different way of tuning chemical reactivity has emerged: controlling the optical environment of a chemical reaction. The binding energy of hybridized chemical intermediates can be tuned by adjusting the optical cavity. This field of strong coupling or polaritonic chemistry is still in its infancy and has never been used to alter the reactivity of electrocatalysts. In this project, we will use the extreme light confinement formed in the nanoscale gaps between metal nanoparticles and mirrors to tune the binding energy of electrochemical intermediates also located in these gaps. The ability to selectively tune specific bonding energies also opens up the possibility of providing different binding between chemically similar intermediates, like oxide, hydroxide and peroxide. This will allow us to push inexpensive but poor performing electrocatalyst up to the peak of the volcano plot for a variety of different reactions, opening up the possibility to efficiently and economically store renewable electricity in fuels.

This project is done in collaboration between two groups at Amolf, for which two positions are available.
1- Design and fabrication of optical cavities with tuning strong coupling effects
2- Measure the local changes in electrochemical reaction rate with scanning electrochemical microscopy

About the group

AMOLF is a vibrant and stimulating place that does research at the forefront of science. Each of the two PhD positions will be done at either the 3DPV or NSSC groups in strong collaboration. The two groups are part of the Light Management in Photovoltaics, a team of 5 groups at AMOLF for developing fundamental understanding of the interaction of light with nanomaterials, and Chemistry and Spectroscopy. These research expertise centers offer intense training to all group members for your development as scientists.


You will need to meet the requirements for an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,441 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at a Dutch University . Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Prof.dr. Esther Alarcon Llado and Prof. dr. Erik Garnett
Group leader 3D Photovoltaics and Nanoscale Solar Cells
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please annex your:
–  Resume;
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page).

It is important to us to know why you want to join our team and which of the two openings you are most interested. This means that we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.
Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.