PhD Position in Improving Interfacial Adhesion in Biocomposites

Catholic University of Leuven Faculty of Engineering Technology


This position is linked to the new faculty within KU Leuven, namely Faculty of Engineering Technology, more specific at KU Leuven Bruges campus, within the materials engineering department. The program is supported by the Propolis research group ( ). Within this group, research on the processing of (short fibre reinforced) polymers is performed together with the development of new materials. Within the research group, the main focus is on the combination of the advanced material characterization, numerical simulations, the polymer processing and the performance in different domains of the realized product. There is a lot of collaboration with the industry, this can on short term basis and also within long term projects. In a lot of cases, research is performed within a project funded by the government. Currently, 1 professor, 1 research expert, 2 post doc, 6 phd students, 2 senior lectures and 3 research assistents are working in the group. From 1st of October on, a second professor will join the team focussing on physico chemical interactions. The different parts within the current position are similar to the tasks performed by most of the colleagues working within this team.


Biocomposites made from natural fibres,fillers and/or bio-based or biodegradable polymers have gained much interestbecause of environmental efforts towards biodegradability of plastics and theuse of renewable resources. The applications and use of polymer composites inindustry have exponentially expanded over the last decades thanks to theirfavourable material properties of light weight polymer materials and highstrength and toughness due to the incorporation of fibres. Glass, aramid andcarbon fibres have found common use in polymer composites, but plant-basedfibres are renewable and more ecofriendly. The mechanical properties ofcomposites are largely dependent on the adhesion strength between the fibresand the matrix. Achieving excellent interfacial adhesion is particularlychallenging in the case of plant-based fibres, since they are hydrophilic,whereas the polymer matrix is hydrophobic.

The goal of the PhD project is to improveinterfacial adhesion by physical and chemical modification of the fibres andmatrix, and use or development of coupling agents. The research will involvephysical treatment and chemical functionalization laboratory studies, and adoptphysical and chemical analytical methods (e.g. infrared spectrometry,wettability measurements, differential scanning calorimetry) and materialscharacterization techniques (e.g. mechanical strength tests).

We are looking for a highly talented andmotivated PhD candidate, who will conduct innovative research in the field ofmaterials engineering. The ideal candidate has excellent chemical andengineering laboratory skills, and a strong interest in bio-based polymercomposites.

Successful completion of the researchproject will result in a number of scientific international journal papers and aPhD at the Faculty of Engineering Technology (KU Leuven). Results from theresearch will be published in international scientific journals, and will bepresented at conferences and to interested companies and potential users.


-         Holds a master degree inengineering technology, materials engineering, chemical engineering, bioscienceengineering, chemistry or equivalent

-         Has a strong interest andknowledge in the field of polymer science, bio-based materials, and physicalchemistry of interfaces

-         Has strong communication skillsand is willing to present their research results at national and internationalconferences, and on social media, as well as writing research papers forpublication in international peer-reviewed journals

-         Is willing to help in teachingactivities and co-supervision of undergraduate projects

-         Is flexible, has good timemanagement skills and self-discipline, can work independently as well as in ateam

-         Has a creative, critical,analytical and innovative mindset

-         Is very fluent in English bothspoken and written

-         Experience as a researcher orin industry is a plus


The successful candidate will be hired as aPhD researcher. We offer a fulltime one year contract which can be prolonged tofour years upon positive evaluation. Your main working place is the Bruggecampus.

The KU Leuven pursues a policy of equalopportunity and diversity.

Start date: October 1st 2020


For more information, please contact Prof. dr. Veerle Vandeginste via email

You can apply for this job no later than August 17th 2020 via the online application tool, and please alsosend your application files by email to

In addition to your CV and motivation letter, please add a pdf version of your Master thesis, an overview of your study results, and the contact details of two references.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Frederik Desplentere, tel.: +32 50 66 48 56, mail: or Mr. Bart Buffel, tel.: +32 50 66 48 58, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 17, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Brugge
  • Apply before: August 17, 2020
  • Tags: Industriële Ingenieurswetenschappen
  • Download: file

In your application, please refer to