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(Mechanical) Engineer as PhD student - Membrane Technology: Water harvesting from air (m/f)

 Wetsus  Leeuwarden
PhD student position Water harvesting from air
The earth’s atmosphere contains about 4% of the earth’s total fresh water. Harvesting humidity is therefore an interesting technology to supply to the ever increasing demand for fresh water. The technology is most promising for arid locations without connection to the centralized power grid.   Cooling humid air makes the vapor condensate, which then can be collected. However, energy-wise there is a better option. Prior to cooling, the relatively small amount of water vapor is separated from the high background of other components in the air, particularly nitrogen. This way only the water vapor needs to be cooled down, saving more than half of the energy. PDMS or SPEEK-coated membranes are impermeable for water in the liquid state but show a high selectivity for water vapor over nitrogen gas. The driving force for water vapor permeation across the membrane is the difference in partial water vapor pressure between the feed and permeate side. At the permeate side the vapor pressure can be reduced by (a combination of) low total pressure (‘vacuum’), a condenser and a (dry) sweeping gas. Coupling the system to either a wind turbine or solar energy generator creates a stand-alone device.
Research challenge
A previous PhD student on this topic investigated the feasibility of this technology by performing simulations. In this way the effect of several parameters has been studied theoretically but these results still await the translation of this knowledge into a functional prototype. The aim of this current project is to explore different configurations, for example, in respect to membrane and condenser (e.g., direct contact, air gap or sweep gas) and design a working prototype. In addition, the membrane itself can be part of the focus (e.g., inside-out spiral, outside-in spiral or planar). Even the investigation of entirely new membrane material belongs to the options.
The ideal candidate has an MSc degree and is a creative (mechanical) engineer with solid knowledge of thermodynamics and mass transport phenomena. Knowledge on membrane technology is an advantage.

Our offer
Doing a PhD in the Netherlands takes 4 year.
You earn a salary to make a living.
In year 1 the salary is €30.674,  in year 4 €39.214 before tax.
The amount of paid holiday days is 35/year.
The research project is part of the Wetsus research theme Dehydration
The following companies are part of this research theme: Avebe, Feyecon, (Dutch Rainmaker)
Promotor: Not yet decided
For more information contact dr. Henk Miedema of Wetsus ( or dr. ir. Antoine Kemperman of University Twente (
Wetsus, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

How to apply:
Outstanding and highly motivated candidates are asked to provide the following information:
  • Motivation letter
  • CV specifying:
    - Doctoral study entrance qualification (name master degree)
    - List of internships (subject, name supervisor, grade, etc)
    - Publications (if applicable)
    - Scientific interest, complementary qualifications, achievements
    - Other relevant information
  • Grades (with explanation on the grading system)
  • Copy of master diploma or letter of university that master diploma will be obtained soon
  • At least one letter of recommendation and contact information of the referee(s)
Applicants are asked to rank their preference for a research project. A maximum of 3 preferences can be given.
The recruitment will proceed based on your first preference. The other two will provide us with information about your interests.

Please combine all documents in one single attachment.

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For more information contact dr. Henk Miedema of Wetsus ( or dr. ir. Antoine Kemperman of University Twente (
While applying for the job please refer to jobvector and use the following reference number: 4.4

About Wetsus

Wetsus, European centre of excellence for sustainable water technology, is a network university. In Wetsus 22 universities from all over Europe cooperate on a research program which is defined by 105 partners from industry. Wetsus creates a unique environment and strategic cooperation for development of profitable and sustainable state of the art water treatment technology. The inspiring and...

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