phd project

Integration of direct air capture and biological processes for sustainable production of chemicals

The development of energy-efficient carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies is of utmost importance for our society to reduce global warming. New technologies should achieve a cost-effective capture of CO2 and conversion into carbon-neutral fuels/chemicals by using renewables. In this context, an emerging strategy is direct air capture (DAC), i.e. technologies aiming to capture CO2 directly from ambient air. However, current DAC technologies are still highly energy demanding.

Research challenge
The aim of this research project is to develop an energy-efficient process by combining an innovative electrochemical DAC technology(1) with biological processes. The final goal is to achieve the simultaneous capture of CO2 from ambient air and production of renewable chemicals via microbial conversion. The research will focus on the performance of both the CO2 capture and conversion steps, as well as on the overall process integration, to achieve an energy-efficient integrated process. The research will involve both modelling activities and experimental validation on the integrated DAC-bioreactor system.

[1] Shu et al, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54 (14), 8990–8998.

Technical background and experience:
• MSc degree in environmental engineering/biotechnology or equivalent, completed before the start date of the position (1st September 2021) with excellent grades
• Knowledge of bio-process engineering and microbiology
• Hands on experience with microbial cultivation and bioreactors
• Ability to work independently in laboratory, and to rigorously design and perform experiments in a result-oriented and thorough manner

Personal knowledge and skills
• Eagerness to carry out multidiscipline research in a highly international environment
• Excellent interpersonal skills to work effectively with team members from different backgrounds
• A strong interest in combining modeling and experimental activities
• Good oral and written communication skills in English (CEFR Level B2)
• A strong interest in personal development and career growth

Partnership and international collaborations
A strong cooperation with industrial partners is envisioned for this project. The research project will be part of the Wetsus research Sustainable Carbon Cycle, in close collaboration with industrial partners such as Qirion/Alliander, Shell, and Coval Energy. The candidate will have the opportunity to interact and receive feedback from the industrial partners during regular meetings (every 4 months).

Supervision arrangement
Promotor: prof. Dr. ir. H.V.M. (Bert) Hamelers (Wetsus/Wageningen University, Environmental Technology (ETE)
Co-promotor: Dr. ir. Philipp Kuntke (Wetsus/Wageningen University, ETE)
Wetsus supervisors: Dr. Michele Tedesco, Dr. M. Cristina Gagliano

Working arrangement
The research project will be fully executed at Wetsus (Leeuwarden), with regular interaction with Wageningen University.

For more information, contact Dr. M. Tedesco:
Please do not send your application to this email address. Only complete applications received via the official application form will be considered for evaluation.

12.8 Integration of direct air capture and biological processes for sustainable production of chemicals

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