Postdoc polymer design & synthesis

Job description

The unit Separation- and Conversion Technology (SCT) develops technologies for the sustainability of production processes in the (bio)chemical sector, replacement of fossil resources by renewable and recyclable resources as feedstock for the chemical industry, and the treatment of waste streams into renewable chemicals.

The synthesis of (semi)aromatic polymers derived from renewable resources is currently attracting tremendous interest from both academia and industry, as aromatic compounds are key intermediates in the manufacture of polymers and chemicals.

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 bioaromatics by its own technology and by collaboration with different technology providers. Lignin is the main source of aromatic bio-based molecules. Various phenols derivatives with a variety of chemical structures can be obtained from lignin deconstruction combined with advanced membrane separation techniques. VITO has developed a strong expertise in the valorization of biomass through conversion of lignocellulose into value-added lignin fragments and bio-aromatic derivatives.

Besides using renewable building blocks such as lignin, a complementary approach toward the design of more sustainable polymers consists of integrating recycled/recyclable building blocks into new polymer structures. Following this strategy, VITO started to develop and demonstrate how recyclable building blocks could be polymerized into value-added products.

To strengthen this research line, we are looking for a researcher to work within our Sustainable Polymer Technologies (SPOT) team ( The focus of the research will be focused on the design and development of polymers with biobased and/or recycled content, as well as its full characterization in terms of material properties. Translating this research into IP and scientific papers, and co-development with companies will be the way to guide the research.

Job requirements

  • Applicants must have obtained a PhD in polymer chemistry or a related field (organic chemistry, biomaterials…) or proven track record
  • An experience in the synthesis/characterization of (bio)polymers derived from biomass or in the field of (plastics) chemical recycling is an advantage
  • Highly self-motivated individuals who have demonstrated the ability to conduct scientific research successfully and work independently are desirable
  • The ability to combined creativity and experimental research together with a focus on applications to generate industry-relevant solutions leading to commercialization is a strong advantage
  • Strong written/verbal communication abilities are required, as well as teamwork and negotiation skills
  • You are strongly interested in cooperation with other partners (industry, SME’s, institutes, universities).
  • The candidates are expected to stay abreast of the recent literature (publications and patents) in the field of lignin-derived polymers, develop research ideas and valorized their research in the form of patents and research papers
  • You are enthusiastic about both experimental lab work as well about processing of data and reporting.
  • The candidate will contribute to the acquisition of new projects/funds via writing research proposals

Tasks & responsibilities

  • You are responsible for the execution and follow-up of projects (both national and European) in the domain of biobased and/or recycled materials, more specifically on synthesis of lignin based biopolymers and using recycled building blocks.
  • You are responsible for the definition and planning of lab experiments and you coordinate the proper execution of these experiments by lab technicians, PhD students and post-docs.
  • You are responsible for reporting and for the protection of the research results from you and the team.
  • You publish your results (peer-reviewed papers, patents) in order to build up a track-record for the biopolymer activities in VITO.
  • You assist in and later on lead in the acquisition of research funds (industrial, national, European) to execute the strategic roadmaps of the team.
  • You are responsible for coaching supporting staff and students.
  • You expand your network in the field of lignin based materials.
  • You give input for the strategic orientation of the team.


  • The possibility to work activity based: your activities determine your work place. On average, you are expected at our office in Antwerp-Berchem twice a week. The other days you can work from home or from other VITO locations (Mol, Genk, Ghent, Ostend), depending on the needs of the activities and your team.
  • An attractive salary package supplemented with extra-legal benefits such as allowances, insurances and a modular holiday package.
  • A great deal of freedom and flexibility in your job that enables you to achieve an attractive work-life balance.
  • Innovation is our core value, we give our employees the opportunity to educate themselves and keep up to date within their field of expertise, moreover, we expect this.