Postdoc Continuous Catalytic Depolymerization of Biomass/Lignin

Job description

Host institute

The Unit of Separation and Conversion Technology (SCT, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, VITO) develops technologies for the sustainability of production processes in the (bio)chemical sector, replacement of fossil resources by renewable feedstocks for the chemical industry and the treatment of waste streams into high value chemicals. A strategic research theme is focusing on the use of wood/lignin as an alternative feedstock for the production of biobased aromatics. Due to its aromatic nature, lignin is considered as a valuable alternative for the production of aromatic bio-based molecules. Various phenol derivatives with a variety of chemical structures can be produced by cleaving the lignin structure. In this respect, VITO is co-initiator of Biorizon, an industry driven Shared Research Center, focusing on technology development for the production of functionalized, biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals & coatings. As the leading institute, VITO coordinates the development of lignin derived bio-aromatics by its own technology and by collaboration with different technology providers.

More information available on and

Up to now, VITO has developed strong expertise in the valorization of biomass through conversion of lignocellulose into value-added lignin fragments and bio-aromatic derivatives. These new lignin-derived building blocks are consequently evaluated for their application potential as polymer building blocks or functional additives. Our team developed continuous processing from lab to pilot scale. However, to optimize the technology, we are looking for a PhD graduate for 2 years postdoctoral research to work within our SPOT team ( with a focus on the optimization of continuous catalytic depolymerization of lignin and biomass.

Closing date for applications: 28/02/2023

Starting date (preferred): 1/03/2023

Project Description

This position fits within national and international collaborative projects with strong industrial consortia. This research project will involve aspects of solubility optimization of lignins and biomass, continuous catalytic processing via hydrogenolyses and screening of different catalysts, as well as characterization of produced depolymerized lignins .

The following tasks/actions are foreseen in our project to be conducted by the candidate, focusing on the optimization of the continuous catalytic hydrogenolyses of lignins and biomass (both via modelling and experimental work):

  • Active literature survey, keeping up to date with relevant articles and patents in the fields
  • Detailing out the work protocol after discussion with the experts involved
  • Execution of the work in laboratory
  • Data interpretation and plan for next possible steps: in discussion with experts
  • Execution of the experiments/tasks in a timely and efficient manner according to the overall project planning
  • Preparing presentations for the meetings/reports.
  • Scientific output and/or patent submission as a result of the work would be highly recommended
  • Ensure compliance with VITO’s Health & Safety Policy, and take a proactive approach to ensure all experimental work is safe

Job requirements

  • PhD in Chemical Engineering with a strong interest in chemistry (preferable)
  • Background in biomass and flow systems is recommended
  • Knowledge on working on process development is an asset, as well as conceptual design know how.
  • You have a result-driven character capable of translating theory to practice and vice versa and are able to find solutions.
  • You are proactive, motivated and an excellent team player who enjoys working in a multidisciplinary environment
  • You are interested to acquire hands-on experience by running innovative experimental set-ups.
  • You are fluent in English and eager to write scientific papers and/or patents

Contact person for more information

Elias Feghali (