PhD Position: Solar-hydrogen Production: Water Splitting in Polymeric Electrolyte Membrane Photoelectrochemical Cells


DIFFER (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research) is one of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) institutes and focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to energy research, combining physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science. The institute is based on two main strands, solar fuels for the conversion and storage of renewable energy and fusion-energy as clean and unlimited source of energy. DIFFER is developing and supporting a national network on fundamental energy research and is closely collaborating with academic institutions, research institutes and industry. As of 2015 the institute is located in a new building at the campus of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

A PhD position is available in the group of Catalytic and Electrochemical Processes for Energy Applications in the area of water splitting using solid state electrolyte photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells.

The work will be conducted in the framework of the H2020 project “Sun-to-X  ”. In this project, Toyota Motor Europe, CEA, DIFFER, HZB, ENGIE, HYSILABS, LGI and LightFuel have combined efforts for the successful implementation of hydrogen production and storage at high efficiency and scale.

Scientific aim:

Solar hydrogen is a promising sustainable energy vector and finding scalable production techniques is becoming increasingly critical, as global temperatures continue to rise. Steady progress has been made in the development of PEC cells for hydrogen production, however, most research in this field has focused on using acidic or alkaline liquid electrolytes for ionic transfer. This limits the scalability, due to mass transport issues, limits the performance by scattering of light and blocking of catalytic sites by gas bubbles and mass transport limitations; and also causes a safety risk if leaks occur. An attractive alternative to a liquid water feedstock is to use the water vapor present as humidity in ambient air, which has been demonstrated to mitigate the above problems and can expand the geographical range where these devices can be utilized, such as deserts. This approach requires the development of PEC cells based on solid electrolytes, which has been developed by our groups using wide bandgap photoelectrodes. This PhD position focus on the implementation of state of the art photoelectrodes for increasing the solar to hydrogen efficiency and the development of bias free high surface area prototype.

Responsibilities and tasks:

  • Fabrication and functionalization of photoelectrodes following wet chemistry approaches
  • Preparation of membrane (photo)electrode assemblies
  • Optimization of reactor development
  • Conduct experiments in the field of the proposed research
  • Assist in the preparation of scientific papers and conference communications


We are looking for a qualified and motivated candidate that meets the following requirements:

  • Education as chemist, chemical engineer, materials scientist or similar in BSc and MSc level
  • Practical experience in the areas of polymeric membrane fuel cells or electrolysers, photocatalysis, photoelectrochemistry would be an asset
  • Strong communication skills and attitude to participate successfully in multidisciplinary projects
  • Ability to work well individually and as a team member
  • Good communication skills in English (both written and spoken)

Employment conditions:

Our institute offers a first class and international research environment with various interdisciplinary but related research topics and projects. When fulfilling a PhD position at DIFFER, you will have an employee status as junior scientist at NWO. You can participate in all the employee benefits NWO offers. NWO and DIFFER have number of regulations that support employees in finding a good work-life balance. Such as conditions for teleworking, partly paid parental leave, the possibility to purchase and sell holiday leave, and a mentoring program. You will get a contract for four years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 3,085 euro gross per month. The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8 percent and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33 percent. A training program is part of the agreement: you and your supervisor will design a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need, for example through several courses offered by NWO. General information on working at NWO can also be found at the NWO website (www.nwo-i.nl).

Further information:

The ‘NWO job interview code’ applies to this position. At DIFFER we believe that a workforce diverse in gender, age and cultural background is key to performing excellent research. We therefore strongly encourage applications from women and minorities in general. In our institute physicists, chemists, engineers and other specialists work together in multidisciplinary teams to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society. To strengthen our commitment to diversity, in January 2018 we formed a taskforce with the aim to design, implement, and monitor diversity and gender equality initiatives. These initiatives include a revision of the recruitment process, to prevent and where necessary mitigate implicit biases in the selection of candidates. Further information on the vacancy is available through Dr M. Tsampas, Tel: +31 (0) 40 3334 820, e-mail: m.tsampas@differ.nl

Application procedure:

In case you are interested you can apply by electronically submitting an application letter and a full curriculum vitae, a grade list, and possibly copies of papers to vacancies@differ.nl. In the subject of your email please specify the vacancy number (20.003) and use the following format for your documents:



Vacancy number:


About Company
Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)
De Zaale 20, 5612 AJ Eindhoven
Job Info
Job Status: Open
No of Vacancies: 1
Date Posted: April 1, 2020
Expiry Date: 2020-04-30
Job Type: PhD Studentship
Job Level: Any
Salary Info
Salary Type: Negotiable
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