PhD Position in Oxidative Trapping of Dilute Methane with Iron and Copper Exchanged Zeolites

Catholic University of Leuven Center for Sustainable Catalysis and Engineering


The Center for Sustainable Catalysis and Engineering (CSCE) is a part of Faculty of Bio-engineering of KULeuven. The research of the CSCE division is focused on creating a knowledge to foster a better understanding of the role of heterogeneous catalysis in the upcoming circular and carbon-smart economy. As a group of academics, students and technicians, interested and trained in different disciplines, we are highly committed to search for novel catalysis solutions to drive and enable the sustainable production of chemicals and materials. CSCE research covers the range of fundamental to applied catalysis research, both in chemistry and engineering.


Methane has the second largest contribution to anthropogenic global warming after CO2. Remediation of methane in common emission streams is challenging because the methane concentrations are often dilute, methane is relatively difficult to oxidize, and many processes leading to methane emissions are difficult to replace with alternative technology. We are looking for a PhD candidate who will investigate the use of highly reactive oxidation sites on the surface of iron and copper exchanged zeolites to oxidize methane in low concentrations and at low temperatures and pressures. The aim is to convert the methane to  products that are effectively trapped onto the zeolite (e.g. methanol or methoxy) - there by removing the methane from the emission stream. In the project you will investigate the formation of the highly reactive oxidation sites from widely available O2 and look into the reasons for their reactivity. We will also investigate their interaction with H2O, inevitably present after full hydrocarbon oxidation.

Practically, the project involves the preparation of catalysts and their analysis involving some bench chemistry, performing tests and experiments on a gas phase reactor, and the application of advanced spectroscopy to experimental catalyst samples. Spectroscopy will be performed at the home institution, but also with collaborators at Stanford University, with a visit of the PhD candidate planned in the project. Anticipated (and available) techniques include UV-Vis spectroscopy, operando DRIFTS, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, and others. You will have close collaborators on the project in Leuven as well as at Stanford University and your research will be supported by experts on computational molecular modelling.


-         You are recently graduated or will by this summer graduate with a master degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, or a related discipline

-         Your grades show academic excellence and allow direct access to the doctoral program

-         You are highly motivated for applied chemistry research with a strong fundamental basis

-         You intend to pursue a PhD degree, committing to a four year research period on the described project.

-         You have an aptitude for hands-on laboratory work, and have some experience with relevant experimental research in the field from a master’s thesis (or other).

-         You are able to work independently, and to report your progress in an accurate and timely fashion.

-         You aim to become a valuable member of the research group, sharing your (future) expertise to support the whole research group.

-         Your English is fluent, both spoken and written.


-         Full-time PhD position with a doctoral scholarship for four years, with an intermediate evaluation after each year

-         The opportunity to work and live in one of the most innovative universities and cities in Europe. Leuven is located 20 min from Brussels, in the center of Europe.

-         International working environment and possibility to present your work at international conferences.

-         A state-of-the-art experimental infrastructure.

-         To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will participate in the Arenberg Doctoral School doctoral training program


Candidates can apply by submitting their CV, motivation letter and grade lists via the online application tool. Please also include when you would be available to start, and the names and contact details of at least two relevant references (preferably senior researchers) that are willing to write a letter of recommendation upon request. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

For more information please contact Mrs. Ekaterina Makshina or Mr. Max Bols: 

You can apply for this job no later than May 20, 2021 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: May 20, 2021
  • Tags: Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen

In your application, please refer to