PhD position in the area of thin film deposition for applications in electrochemical water splitting (Research Group CoCooN)

(10-03-2020) The PhD candidate will develop ALD strategies for the synthesis of electrodes and will construct a reaction cell that enables surface characterization.

Renewable electricity sources, such as wind and solar power, are key technologies to cope with the depletion of fossil energy resources and to limit global warming. However, adequate energy storage solutions are required to tackle their intermittent and regional availability. In this context, water electrolysis is a key technology that uses surplus electrical energy to split H2O into O2 and H2; the latter being a zero-carbon energy carrier that can be stored and transported. However, it is mandatory to reduce the cost and increase the current carrying capabilities and durability of electrolyzers to enable their widespread implementation and economic viability.

The most powerful tool to optimize electrolyzers from a materials viewpoint is a deep understanding of the electrochemical processes occurring at the interfaces between the electrolyte, electrocatalyst and electrode. However, because the physics and chemistry of the electrode surface are often unknown and difficult to control, it is challenging to understand the fundamentals at the level of the electrochemical interface. To address this challenge, we aim at using Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) for the synthesis of well-defined model electrocatalysts. The key advantages of ALD are the accurate stoichiometry and thickness control, and excellent conformality on 3D surfaces.

Job description

The work will be executed in the Conformal Coating of Nanomaterials (COCOON) research group at the Department of Solid State Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium ( The PhD candidate will develop ALD-based strategies for the synthesis of electrodes with tailored morphologies, compositions and layer structures at the atomic scale. The synthesized materials will be systematically evaluated for their structural properties and electrochemical performance. To this end, the PhD candidate will construct a dedicated reaction cell that enables surface characterization after the electrolysis without exposure to air. A state-of-the-art vacuum cluster tool with through-glovebox loading capabilities is available, providing access to instruments for X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. This work aims to extend our understanding of electrocatalytic processes and provide guidelines to improve activity and stability by optimizing the composition, morphology and layer structure of the electrode surfaces.

How to apply?

You can apply via email to, using the subject line “Application ALD-Electrocat PhD”. Please provide a full CV including your academic/education history, experience with experimental work and programming, list of publications where applicable. Please also provide a motivation letter containing research interests, skills, career plans, reasons for applying for this program (1 or 2 pages), and the names of two references with contact details. For applicants from non-English speaking countries, please attach copies of recent English language certificates where available. The deadline for application is May 1st, 2020.


The PhD candidate must hold a master of science degree in (engineering) physics, chemistry, chemical engineering or materials science (engineering), and show a strong interest in nanomaterials, electrocatalysis and advanced surface analysis. The degree should be obtained before the prospective starting date of September 1st, 2020. The PhD candidate should be fluent in English and have the strong intention to finish a PhD in a 4-year timeframe.

Promotor at Ghent University

Prof. C. Detavernier
Prof. J. Dendooven
 Dept. Solid State Physics,
Ghent University Krijgslaan 281/S1,
9000 Gent
Tel. 09/264 43 54
Please email you application to

Duration of the project

2020 - 2024 (starting and end date are flexible)