Aerogels are advanced structural materials with low density, meso-microstructure, high open porosity and specific surface area. They are typically prepared from suitable wet gels by turning the pore-filling solvent into a supercritical fluid that is vented off. Thanks to their excellent characteristic, aerogels are the best lightweight thermal-insulating materials which can be used for energy and resource efficient buildings and housing construction with reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Furthermore, aerogels can be envisioned as advanced materials for energy storage applications, chemical adsorption, catalytic and aerospace applications.
In this program we aim to pave the way towards the next generation of organic aerogels with outstanding properties. The research activities include optimization of polymer structure and aerogel properties as well as the understanding of correlation between the chemistry, sol-gel process and the final aerogel properties. Key elements in this project are the fundamental understanding of the sol-gel and gel-aerogel transitions and the importance of the gelation solvent and kinetics of the employed materials, and they are essential for the development of new aerogels with outstanding performance. This requires in-depth analysis of the evolution of the structure and properties of materials in real time. This challenge will be addressed experimentally as well as by means of theoretical modelling to quantify the polymeric sol-gel and gel-aerogel transitions during formation of aerogels and gain understanding of the role of the gelation solvent. We aim at optimising polymer structures to arrive at desired aerogel properties. The nano- and meso-structures that evolve during the sol-gel-aerogel process will be studied using various advanced characterization techniques and studies at the molecular level (NMR, GC-MS, IR, XRD, SAXS), primary nanoparticle level (DLS, TEM) and the mesoscopic assembly level (SEM, TEM), over different time scales. This will be input for further model development on predicting, understanding and being able to tune the structures of aerogels and their functionality, such as the thermal conductivity of them.
The research will be conducted in close collaboration between two TU/e research groups: Polymer Performance Materials (SPM) and Physical Chemistry (SPC) which are part of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at the TU/e (The Netherlands). A description of the groups can be found here.
An interview and a scientific presentation are part of the selection process.
Eindhoven University of Technology is an internationally top-ranking university in the Netherlands that combines scientific curiosity with a hands-on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a top-five position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow.
For more detailed information about this position, please contact Prof. Željko Tomović (email z.tomovic[at]tue.nl) or Prof. Remco Tuinier (email r.tuinier[at]tue.nl).
More information about Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the department of Chemical Engineering & Chemistry is available at www.tue.nl.
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