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PhD position: Towards Earth-Abundant Nanocatalysts for Hydrogenation Reactions: Understanding the Promoting Role of Sulfur in Cobalt Phosphide Nanocatalysts (P2203)

   Swiss Nanoscience Institute

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  Dr Monica Ciomaga Hatnean, Dr Murielle Delley, Dr AB Baumgartner  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) at the University of Basel invites highly motivated scientists to apply for the SNI PhD program in Nanoscience.

The position (your position):

We are looking a PhD student for a joint research project of the Delley Group at the University of Basel ( and the Operando Spectroscopy Group at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI,

Transition metal phosphides show promise as replacement of the typical (and non-sustainable) noble metal catalysts in chemical transformations and energy-related applications. Especially nano-sized phosphide particles have shown great prospects in this context, as they inherently possess large surface areas per mass. However, to achieve a practical implementation of transition metal phosphide nanocatalysts, their catalytic properties have to be understood and improved. In empirical studies, enhanced catalysis has sometimes been observed when a foreign element is incorporated in the catalytic material (e.g. by doping), especially with sulfur. Sulfur-doped phosphide nanoparticles could hence provide highly active and earth-abundant catalysts. However, the effect of sulfur in catalysis is currently not understood and can hence not be effectively used to rationally design and optimize new catalytic processes.

The goal of this PhD project is to develop an understanding of the role of sulfur in the catalysis of phosphides. In the proposed project we combine the expertise of the Delley group in surface chemistry and catalysis with that of the Operando Spectroscopy group in synchrotron-based spectroscopy and catalysis. Of key interest will be the development of structure-reactivity relationships of sulfur-doped phosphides through controlled nanoparticle synthesis, catalysis, and advanced X-ray based spectroscopy at the synchrotron.

Requirements (your profile):

Applicants should hold a MSc degree (or equivalent) inorganic or physical chemistry or a related discipline, and ideally some experience in experimental inorganic chemistry, catalysis, and/or spectroscopy.

We offer:

  • Excellent scientific and social environment
  • Very competitive employment conditions
  • Membership in a very supportive and recognised community and in a stimulating, creative, and interdisciplinary environment.
  • The possibility to work with state-of-the-art resources to perform forefront research on an internationally competitive level.
  • The student will become a member of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute PhD school and will benefit strongly from stimulating internal SNI events, and the personal support and training offered by the PhD programme.

Application / contact:

More information and the online application platform can be found at For questions please contact Dr. Monica Ciomaga Hatnean ([Email Address Removed]) or Prof. Dr. Murielle Delley ([Email Address Removed]), or the head of the SNI PhD programme, Dr. Andreas Baumgartner ([Email Address Removed]). The complete application has to be submitted before 31 December 2022. Please note that the decision to fill a given vacancy can be taken at any time from now.

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