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PhD Researcher: Sweeping rods \'the sideways self-propulsion of micro-rods\'

 KU Leuven  Leuven
Within the Faculty of Engineering Science, the Department of Materials Engineering is responsible for education, research and services in the field of materials. The research activities are related to the development of new and improved materials systems, coatings and thin films, and advanced production methods, as well as to the interaction of those materials with their environment. The starting point is physical material science (crystallographic structures, micro-structural features, phase transformations,...) and its relation to material synthesis, forming properties, functionalities and performance, with a focus on the interface between the material and its specific environment to ensure functionality. The research relies on extensive experimental equipment, modelling specialists and interdisciplinary collaboration within the university as well as with outside partners.

This project aims to replicate and understand self-propelling mechanisms shown by anisotropic microorganisms that must, on a microscale, overcome viscous drag and Brownian motion. To investigate and understand these systems, we seek to replicate such a self-propulsion with synthetic micron-sized anisotropic particles focusing on the side-ways motion of rod-like particles. For this we propose a simple, yet robust method for producing them in sufficient quantities with proper control over their physical and chemical properties. Aligned polymeric micro- and nano-fibers produced using electrospinning will be sputter-coated with two different metals on both the front and back side, thus creating a ‘Janus’ (two faced) fiber. These fibers are subsequently shortened to rods with desired length and aspect ratio using microtome cutting. The bi-metallic rods will self-propel perpendicular to their long axis when placed in a suitable reactant solution, caused by different catalytic reactions on the two metal surfaces of the rods. Experimental investigations of 2D self-propulsion on a surface as well as 3D self-propulsion (achieved by density matching the particles and the medium) will be done with optical, fluorescence and fast confocal microscopy. The observations will be used to construct a model of self-propulsion with the possibility to subsequently tune particle geometry and surface chemistry to build more efficient self-propelling systems.

Master degree with distinction in one of the following fields (or similar): Composites materials, Materials Science, Materials Engineering, Mechanical engineering, Chemical Engineering, etc.
A strong motivation for scientific research is a must.
Candidates having publications and/or conference papers will have an advantage.
A strong interest for multidisciplinary research is required.
Communication skills: ability to work both independently and in a team.
English language proficiency.

The project offers funding for a 4-year program towards a PhD at the KU Leuven within the Department of Materials Engineering, subject to meeting the requirements and deadlines set out by the supervisors and the Arenberg Doctoral School.
KU Leuven offers an exciting multi-disciplinary research environment, a broad gamut of training courses for Ph.D. students, competitive salaries or scholarships and full social and medical insurance.

How to apply:
You can apply for this job no later than November 13, 2016 via the online application tool.
Send application to
For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Jan Fransaer, tel.: +32 16 32 12 39 , mail:
While applying for the job please refer to jobvector and use the following reference number: BAP-2016-554

About KU Leuven

KU Leuven is an ambitious, international and research-oriented university. Internally, the university tries to maintain a balance between the power of the big ship and the flotilla of small, mobile, independent vessels of which it is composed. KU Leuven is home to a lot of creative, young and academic talent. As a leading university in Europe, it is looking for staff who can think outside the box.

More about KU Leuven

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