7.3 Development and scale-up of liquid crystalline based polymeric membranes with aligned uniform pores

Already since decades researchers attempt to mimic biological cell membranes to create membranes with well-defined, perpendicular pores applicable in large-scale technological applications such as water purification and selective ion removal. Much effort has been dedicated to self-organization and alignment of block copolymers and liquid crystals. Although the potential in terms of performance of such ordered materials for membrane applications seems extensive and promising, their practical application for large industrial processes is far off. Up to now such materials can only be created at very small scale (mm2) and in very thin (<50 nm) layers due to the limited length scales that can be achieved. Recently, however, a proof-of-principle was given of inducing molecular organization into membranes with homogeneous uniform straight-through pores by soft confinement of liquid crystalline (LC) polymers using a simple PDMS polymer film on top of a cast LC film. Subsequent crosslinking rigidifies the structure and results in flexible, freestanding films with vertically aligned ordered pores in the 1 nm range.

Research challenge
This research explores the above-described concept for membrane applications for water purification and selective ion removal. Different LC polymers and chemical modifications will be used to set the operating window of the concept for membrane applications. The project initially starts as a membrane development project investigating the range operation of the approach, but it will soon shift as well to evaluation of separation performances of the developed membranes using, next to model solutions, also artificial industrial feeds and real industrial feeds. After systematic characterization and performance evaluation in the laboratory, the performance of the developed membranes will be tested using real industrial feeds from the industrial partners (see below).

We are looking for a candidate with a MSc degree in organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, membrane technology or a related field with a strong physical chemistry or chemistry background and scientific attitude. The candidate should have excellent experimental and theoretical skills.

The PhD project will be executed within the Wetsus research theme Desalination.
The following companies are part of this theme: DMT (NL), Esco (DE), FrieslandCampina (NL), FujiFilm (NL), Shell (NL), Van der Knaap (NL), Vitens (NL) and Yara (NL).

Promotor: Kitty Nijmeijer, Eindhoven University of Technology (Membrane Materials and Processes) and Prof. dr. Albert Schenning, Eindhoven University of Technology (Liquid Crystals)

For more information contact: Dr. ir. Jan Post (

Please do NOT send your CV directly to this email address. Only complete applications sent via the website will be evaluated (How to Apply).

Wetsus, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

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