PhD Position in Production of low-CO2 Calciumsulfoferroaluminate Clinker from Bauxite Residue
Catholic University of Leuven Department of Materials Engineering

Organizational Unit: Sustainable Materials Processing and Recycling (SeMPeR), Leuven (Arenberg), Research group: Sustainable Resources for Engineered Materials, SREMat Our work revolves around residues, for us, secondary resources. We aspire to conceive and develop innovative processes in order to transform them towards engineered materials while considering the sustainability of the envisaged process and the fate of (critical) metals. Focus on secondary resources is placed on metallurgical residues, such as bauxite residue, ferrous and non-ferrous slags, as well as residues from other streams, such as plasma furnace vitrified ash from municipal solid wastes. The final materials developed are cementitious and inorganic polymer (geopolymer) binders, having dense and/or porous and/or fibre reinforced microstructures, for heat resistant, heat insulating and/or load bearing applications. Not only the synthesis of these binders is considered, but also the processing or pretreatment of the metallurgical residues to provide a good precursor in this synthesis. The vision of our team is to create cradle to cradle sustainable material loops.


Bauxite residue (BR) is the main waste of the alumina sector produced at rates of 7 million tons per year in the EU. The recycling rates are less than 100 thousand tons per year, however. In the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project ‘Industrial Residue Activation for sustainable cement production - ReActiv’ modification will be made to both the alumina production and the cement production side of the chain, in order to link them through the new ReActiv technologies. The latter will modify the properties of the industrial residue, transforming into an active material (with pozzolanic or hydraulic activity) suitable for new, low CO2 footprint, cement products. In this manner ReActiv proposes a win-win scenario for both industrial sectors (reducing wastes and CO2 emissions respectively). The consortium consists of 21 project partners from industry (7 European alumina plants and the cement research centre of LafargeHolcim in France), research and development, consulting and 5 universities throughout Europe.

Within the Reactiv project, we offer a full-time PhD position at the Department of Materials Engineering, KU Leuven, for a highly motivated and ambitious PhD candidate working on the production of low-CO2 calciumsulfoferroaluminate clinker from bauxite residue. The tasks include modeling and prediction of the clinker phase assemblage, the production of the clinker, including physical, chemical and structural analysis, followed by a study of the hydration behaviour. The work concludes with a bench scale optimisation of cement production that builds the base for later pilot-plant trials at the facilities of LafargeHolcim.
The position will be supervised by Prof. dr. Yiannis Pontikes and dr. Tobias Hertel and is based in Leuven (Belgium), a cosy, historical university town, with a central location in Western Europe, about 30 km from Brussels.


  • Master degree in materials engineering/civil engineering/mineralogy/geo sciences or equivalent
  • Strong background in cement chemistry and expertise in analytical methods used for cementitious materials
  • Excellent motivation and grades
  • Creative, critical, analytical and innovative mindset
  • Ability to work independently
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English 
  • Willing to contribute to the goals of the research group 
  • Willing to contribute to teaching activities in the Department of Materials Engineering


  • Work in an international research group which focuses on the valorisation of secondary resources towards novel sustainable materials and which goes beyond academic research towards pilot-plant scale demonstration (
  • Participation and collaboration in an international and interdisciplinary project with a strong network and expertise in the field of residue valorisation and cement research and project
  • Work in project that combines academic research and pilot-plant efforts
  • Secondments at the facilities of project partners (e.g., VITO, Belgium; Imperial College London, UK; LafargeHolcim, FR)


Please send your 1-page CV, a motivation letter, your transcript of records (Bachelor and Master studies) to Prof. dr. Yiannis Pontikes, tel.: +32 16 32 03 92, mail: or dr. Tobias Hertel, tel.: +32 16 37 47 96, mail: 
More information on conditions, salary and benefits can be retrieved here:
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments.
You can apply for this job no later than December 31, 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: Leuven
  • Apply before: December 31, 2020
  • Tags: Materiaalkunde

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