Call for applicants: 3 PhD positions available

Call for applicants:

3 PhD positions in the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Project InnovEOX:

Training of a new generation of researchers in Innovative Electrochemical Oxidation processes for the removal and analysis of micro-pollutants in water streams


Applications are invited for 3 PhD positions (“Early Stage Researchers”) to be funded by the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network “INNOVEOX – Training of a new generation of researchers in Innovative Electrochemical Oxidation processes for the removal and analysis of micro-pollutants in water streams” within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission. INNOVEOX is a consortium of high-profile universities, research institutions and companies located in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Greece.

It has been demonstrated that organic chemical pollutants are still putting half of the European freshwater system at risk. The INNOVEOX R&D training network was built to address and provide a solution for this considerable challenge: to boost innovative electrochemical wastewater treatment techniques to effectively degrade highly hazardous organic micro-pollutants, reducing environmental pollution and improving the European quality of life and health. By setting up a training frame to educate the next generation of highly-qualified ESRs in one of the most promising fields in micro-pollutant degradation, this will enable to generate important innovations, necessary to create a new level of EU excellence and reinforce EU R&D capacity in the field.

The main INNOVEOX R&D objectives are:

  1. the exploration of alternative electrochemical oxidation pathways via generation of different oxidative radicals,
  2. the development of combined photocatalytic/electrochemical oxidation techniques,
  3. the development of novel analytical approaches for the separation and identification of these micro-pollutants and their degradation products, and
  4. an assessment of the effects of the developed treatments on the aquatic toxicity, biological wastewater treatment and the environment as a whole via a life cycle assessment.

These objectives combined will ensure a high-quality training with a high-societal impact for the reliable, economic and complete removal of priority pollutants from wastewater. Pushed by an interdisciplinary & intersectoral consortium of 10 leading beneficiaries and 7 partner organisations, the proposal will offer innovative training based on an optimal balance between research and formal training.

Key dates

  • 08-04-2020: Start date for on-line application
  • 15-05-2020: Deadline for on-line application
  • 01-09-2020: Targeted starting date for ESR contracts

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Key background info


InnovEOX wishes to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. Recruitment targets ESR backgrounds in:

  1. Chemical Engineering
  2. Environmental Engineering
  3. Bio-Science Engineering
  4. Electrotechnical Engineering
  5. (Analytical) Chemistry
  6. Pharmacy

In total 15 ESRs will be recruited that will work at the 10 beneficiaries across Europe.

We expect that applicants hold a university degree that qualifies them for doctoral studies at their recruiting organization. Solid written and oral communication skills in English are prerequisites of any successful application (typically IELTS min. 7, TOEFL internet-based min. 90 or similar level as proven by other tests). Every applicant can apply for up to three ESR positions (first, second, third choice).


Career Stage

Early Stage Researcher (ESR) or 0-4 yrs (Post Graduate)


Benefits and salary

The successful candidates will receive an attractive salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for Early Stage Researchers. The exact (net) salary will be confirmed upon appointment and is dependent on local tax regulations and on the country correction factor (to allow for the difference in cost of living in different EU Member States). The salary includes a living allowance, a mobility allowance and a family allowance (if married). The guaranteed PhD funding is for 36 months (i.e. EC funding, additional funding is possible, depending on the local Supervisor, and in accordance with the regular PhD time in the country of origin). In addition to their individual scientific projects, all fellows will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses and active participation in workshops and conferences.


On-line Recruitment Procedure

All applications proceed through the on-line recruitment portal on the website. Candidates apply electronically for one to maximum three positions and indicate their preference. Candidates provide all requested information including a detailed CV (Europass format obligatory). During the registration, applicants will need to prove that they are eligible, according to the ESR definition, mobility criteria, and English language proficiency. The deadline for the on-line registration is 15 May 2020. The selected ESRs are to start their research as quickly as possible (target: September 2020).


Applicants need to fully respect three eligibility criteria (to be demonstrated in the Europass cv):

Early-stage researchers (ESR) are those who are, at the time of recruitment by the host, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided, irrespective of whether or not a doctorate was envisaged.

Conditions of international mobility of researchers:

Researchers are required to undertake trans-national mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up the appointment. At the time of selection by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.

English language: Network fellows (ESRs) must demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the network training.


The 3 available PhD positions in the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Project InnovEOX:


ESR1: Secondary oxidation by electrochemically produced sulphate radicals

ESR1: Secondary oxidation by electrochemically produced sulphate radicals

Host: KU Leuven (Belgium)

Main supervisor: Prof. Raf Dewil (

Duration: 36 months

Required profile: Chemical Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Bio-Science Engineer or Chemist

Description: The use of sulphate radical (SO4*-) based oxidation processes (SR-AOP) has gained attention as an innovative alternative for typical AOP processes because of some distinct advantages of which the most important are (i) the pH independency of the process (e.g., at neutral pH, SO4*- is more reactive than *OH) (ii) the very fast reaction between SO4*- and the organic molecule (iii) the less significant self-scavenging effect, allowing higher radical concentrations, and (iv) the better selectivity of SO4*- compared to *OH, that can be employed to attack specific functional groups responsible for the molecular ecotoxicity characteristics of the pollutant. SO4*- can be generated by applying an activation method (such as UV irradiation) to the radical precursors peroxymonosulphate (HSO5) or persulphate (S2O82-). eAOPs based on Boron-Doped Diamond (BDD) anodes have recently been demonstrated to form the highly reactive sulphate radicals (SO4*-) under specific process conditions and in the presence of sulphate ions. This gives rise to an original approach to omit the necessity for dosing of the precursor molecule (and even of any chemical component if sulphate is already present in the water). Also, through the combination of (i) direct electrochemical degradation at the anode’s surface, (ii) indirect oxidation via OH* produced and (iii) indirect oxidation via SO4*-, the oxidation will take place via different reaction mechanisms, chemically attacking different parts of the organic molecules and hence leading to possibilities for complete mineralisation. The ESR will elucidate the full mechanisms behind the degradation of selected micropollutants via the described combined system, termed SR-eAOP. Specifically, the contribution of both types of radicals to the degradation will be defined via scavenging one of or both radical types. The expected differences in reaction mechanisms and degradation products, compared to a typical BDD, eAOP will further be identified using the analytical tools developed in WP3, and in close collaboration with ESR 9 and ESR 10. The obtained knowledge will further be used to define the most ideal operating conditions for the organics degradation.


ESR3: Enhancing mass transport in a plasma based AOP via liquid spray reactor design

ESR3: Enhancing mass transport in a plasma based AOP via liquid spray reactor design

Host: University of Liverpool (UK)

Main supervisor: Prof. James Walsh (

Duration: 36 months

Required profile: Chemical Engineer, Electrotechnical Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Bio-Science Engineer or Chemist

Description: In a typical plasma based AOP the degradation efficiency of the process is often limited by the mass transport of highly reactive chemical species from the plasma to the liquid phase. Recently, a large number of plasma reactor configurations have been reported and show an enormous variation in the efficiency of micro-pollutant degradation. Typically, one of the most efficient group of reactors involve spraying the contaminated liquid directly through the plasma region; this is attributed to the direct-contact and large-surface area between the aerosolised liquid and plasma. In this project, the ESR will explore the liquid spray reactor configuration and aim to maximise the degradation efficiency by enhancing the plasma stability and fluid-dynamics properties of the design. Spraying liquid through a plasma has the potential to disrupt the discharge and reduce the efficiency. To overcome this, the ESR will construct a spray-type reactor and investigate its key parameters, such as flow rate, aerosol size and plasma volume to establish the most stable operating conditions. Using a Particle Imaging Velocimetry (PIV) system, the ESR will quantify the velocity profiles of aerosols passing through the reactor, measurements that will be supported by computational fluid dynamics modelling (COMSOL). The characterisation activity will be used to iteratively enhance of the reactor design in terms of mass transport. Ultimately, the optimised reactor configuration will be compared against alternative reactor configurations already available in Liverpool (e.g., surface barrier discharge situated above thin liquid layer), typical BDD electrochemical configurations and those reported in the literature.


ESR8: In-situ production of H2O2 at the cathode surface via catalytic coating

ESR8: In-situ production of H2O2 at the cathode surface via catalytic coating

Host: InOpsys (Belgium)

Main supervisor: Ir. Kwinten Van Eyck (

Academic promoter: Prof. Raf Dewil (PhD awarded by KU Leuven)

Duration: 36 months

Required profile: Chemical Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Bio-Science Engineer or Chemist

Objectives: A typical anodic oxidation process is based on electrochemical oxidation of target pollutants at the anode of the electrochemical system. The process can be improved, however, via the generation of H2O2 from cathodic reduction. The in-situ formation of this oxidant (and precursor for OH* radicals) at the cathode, results in the presence of an additional possibility for priority pollutant oxidation. The formation of H2O2 is dependent of the process conditions in the system, and very specifically, on the composition of the cathode. In general, carbonaceous cathodes are beneficial for H2O2 generation. In this research, the process will be further developed and optimized. A beneficial catalytic coating for the cathode will be designed, for the production of H2O2. Furthermore, influential parameters will be determined and an optimization of the process will be carried out.



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Full recruitment procedure available here: Recruitment Document

This project is to receive funding from the European Union’s EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020, pending the formal completion of the Grant Agreement (No 861369) procedure.