PhD-student: Resolving Surface Reactions in Plasma Catalysis (SURPLAS)

Date posted September 7, 2023
Type PhD positions

Surface reactions on metal model catalysts in plasma environment

This PhD position connects the two active research fields of surface science and plasma chemistry. The project aims to understand the active state of a surface live during plasma exposure using a unique methodology developed by our research group. It is part of a fully funded Starting Grant from the European Research Council entitled “Resolving surface reactions in plasma catalysis: Towards rational catalyst design (SURPLAS)” at the Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography (ARCNL). 


Renewable energy is key to tackling climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. The intermittent supply of renewable energy hampers its efficient usage and creates a pressing need for innovative energy conversion approaches. Energy-to-fuel conversion using plasma-assisted catalytic conversion is highly promising for producing urgently needed fuels from greenhouse gases. In plasma catalysis, reactants are activated in a plasma discharge, allowing for remarkable efficiencies beyond the limits of thermal catalysis. The catalyst surface defines the reaction pathway and selectivity, and is thus key in catalyst design. However, at present the active state of catalyst surfaces in plasma is unknown, limiting the impact of plasma catalysis by inhibiting the design of dedicated plasma catalysts.

Project goal

In the SURPLAS project, we will determine the surface reaction mechanisms of catalysts in plasma and demonstrate the rational design of plasma catalysts for CO2 hydrogenation. As a PhD student, you will compare the interaction of catalytically active metals favoring different products and determine the details of reaction pathways at the surface. You will learn to prepare atomically clean surfaces in ultra-high vacuum and perform spectroscopy experiments to determine their active state live during exposure to plasma. Using photoelectron spectroscopy, you will analyze the surface composition and oxidation state of the active surface, allowing conclusions on the reaction mechanism. Infrared absorption spectroscopy will enable you to identify the key reaction intermediates of plasma-catalytic reactions.

What does ARCNL offer you?

  • Responsibility over a unique tool combining plasma exposure in situ with photoelectron spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy
  • Access to state-of-the-art sample characterization and preparation tools including ultra-high vacuum equipment for imaging and diffraction, thin-film growth, and cleanroom facilities
  • The opportunity to improve your experimental and leadership skills in experimental campaigns designed by you
  • Active connection to the University of Amsterdam and collaborations with experimental and theoretical groups
  • Cooperation with a team of PhD students and a large industrial partner

About the group

The Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography (ARCNL) focuses on the fundamental physics and chemistry involved in current and future key technologies in nanolithography, primarily for the semiconductor industry. ARCNL is a public-private partnership between the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam and the semiconductor equipment manufacturer ASML. ARCNL is located at the Science Park Amsterdam, The Netherlands (see also
The research activities of the Materials and Surface Science for EUV Lithography group aim at the atomic-scale understanding of surface processes in challenging environments, such as plasmas, high light intensities, and high temperatures.


You will need to meet the requirements for an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination.

You have a university degree in (applied) physics or physical chemistry. Good verbal and written communication skills (in English) are required. Prior experience with surface science, ultra-high vacuum, and spectroscopy techniques is considered an advantage for the project.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,720 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at Dutch University. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. ARCNL assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Dr. Roland Bliem
Head of the Materials and Surface Science for EUV Lithography group
Phone: +31- 20 851 7100

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
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