The research group of prof. Johan Martens (COK-kat) within the Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems of the KU Leuven, is looking for a strongly motivated researcher at PhD level to take part in the ERC advanced grant research program WATUSO (Water as a tuneable solvent is an ERC funded project aiming at modulating water solvent properties by confinement).
Water is the sustainable solvent of excellence but its high polarity limits the solubility of non-polar compounds. Confinement of water in hydrophobic pores alters its hydrogen bonding structure and related properties such as dielectric constant and solvation power.
Whether this special state of confined water can be rendered useful in chemical processes is hitherto underexplored. The original idea of this project is to modulate water solvent properties through hydrophobic nano-confinement.
Pressure is applied to force a heterogeneous mixture of poorly soluble molecules and water into hydrophobic nanopores of host material where the lowered polarity of water enhances dissolution.
Decompression after reaction causes expulsion of the solution from the pores and spontaneous demixing of reaction products as water returns to its normal polar state.
Temporary dissolution enhancement during confinement is expected to be advantageous to chemical reaction and molecular storage.
Development of dedicated hydrophobic nanoporous materials and research methodologies providing in situ characterization of confined water, solutes and host material using NMR, EIS, DRS, X-ray and neutron scattering under static and dynamic conditions are key aspects of this project.
Unprecedented control in time and space over H2O solvation properties in a WATUSO system will enable new technologies with major scientific and societal impact.
WATUSO will lead to new insights in water research and deliver new multi-diagnostic characterization tools. WATUSO could revolutionize chemical manufacturing and gas storage and the concept could spill over to many more solvent-based processes.
WATUSO will contribute significantly to a greener, more sustainable chemical industry.
You will be part of the WATUSO research team, integrated into the research NMR team of the NMR facility at KU Leuven Chem&Tech.
You will be responsible for :
in corroboration with other NMR postdocs, research support staff and research experts
For some aspects of the project you will work indiviually, in other cases you will operate as part of a small team.