PhD Position in Development of High-Performance Biobased Supercapacitors
Catholic University of Leuven Department of Chemical Engineering

This work will be carried out in the Renewable Materials and Nanotechnology research group (Department of Chemical Engineering) of Prof. Wim Thielemans at KU Leuven, on the Kulak Kortrijk campus. It is part of a collaborative project with Prof. Stefan Spirk and Prof. Stefan Freunberger from TU Graz in Austria. We recently published a book on polysaccharide-based supercapacitors that formed the basis of this project (Polysaccharide-based supercapacitors. BioBased polymers, Springer International Publishing 2017, ISBN: 978-3-319-50754-5). Prof. Thielemans' group has extensive expertise in the extraction, chemical modification, characterisation, and self-assembly of cellulose nanocrystals with other materials for high-value applications as well as in the development of a wide array of other biobased materials. The research group is equipped with all the necessary equipment for these studies including fully equipped wet chemical labs, electrochemical potentiostats, elemental analysis, light scattering, small and wide angle x-ray scattering (S/WAXS), x-ray photo-electron spectroscopy (XPS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and an isothermal titration calorimeter (ITC) to study the thermodynamic interactions between nanoparticles and with polymers, in addition to access through collaborations to virtually all other techniques such as (cryo)TEM, AFM, STM, and harmonic light scattering. We have numerous international scientific collaborations. The research group at current consists of 9 PhD students and 5 postdoctoral researchers.


In this project, new supercapacitor devices will be developed that fill a technologically viable place in the Ragone plot gap between batteries and electrochemical double-layer capacitors with needed high energy density and power characteristics, high cycling stability, and based largely on renewable resources. We target a specific energy and power of respectively 150-300 W·h/kg and 10-50 kW/kg and scalable methods for electrode material preparation will be developed.

These ambitious goals will be achieved through the following steps:

  • Manufacturing of highly porous, hierarchically organized carbonaceous anode materials
  • Design and engineering of high-performance cathode materials using tri-component composites
  • Optimization of the assembly process to realize superior performance of the supercapacitors

We are looking for a PhD student who will work in tandem with 2 current PhD students already working in the group on various aspects of this project. The three PhD students are expected to collaborate and support each other, but of course each will develop their own topic. This work will also be carried out in collaboration with Prof. Stefan Spirk and Prof. Stefan Freunberger at TU Graz (Austria) so scientific visits to Austria are a possibility.


We seek an enthousiastic scientist with an interest in the development of sustainable supercapacitor electrode materials and nanoparticle self-assembly.  Preference will be given to students with a degree in Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or Bio-Engineering. Experience with supercapacitor development and characterisation and/or substantial general electrochemistry will be a strong plus in the application.

Admission to the Arenberg Doctoral School requires at least a Master's degree with distinction or a Master's degree with a scientific publication in an international peer-reviewed journal.


We have funding for a fully-funded 4-year fellowship to work towards a PhD in Chemical Engineering in a very international research group.

Progress will be annually reviewed following the guidelines by the Arenberg Doctoral School.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Wim Thielemans, tel.: +32 56 24 61 71, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than February 29, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Kortrijk
  • Apply before: February 29, 2020
  • Tags: Chemische Ingenieurstechnieken
  • Download: file

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