PhD Research position for the modelling, the design and the development of a solar-cell-enabled electrothermal energy and potable water production system using hydrogen

KU Leuven

Leuven, Belgium 🇧🇪

Tewerkstellingspercentage: Voltijds

Locatie: Brugge

Toegepaste Mechanica en Energieconversie (TME), Campus Brugge

Solliciteren tot en met: 31/01/2023

Tags: IndustriĂ«le Ingenieurswetenschappen

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(ref. BAP-2023-22)Laatst aangepast : 17/01/2023

M-Group of KU Leuven is a research team performing ground-breaking work in mechatronic systems and energy. It consists of 5 professors from 3 departments and counts more than 70 members. The group is situated in a brand-new KU Leuven campus in Bruges, a vibrant historic city in the North of Belgium. The Division of Applied Mechanics and Energy Conversion (TME, Department of Mechanical Engineering) within the M-Group is a young research team focussing on sustainable hybrid propulsion systems, with specific interest in hydrogen fuel cells. This team works in close collaboration with the research groups of Prof. Vandeginste (iR, Department of Materials Engineering, Bruges Campus), who is active in the domain of membrane technologies, and Prof. Kleemann & Prof. Cappelle (ELECTA, Department of Electrical Engineering, Ghent Campus), whose research is oriented towards photovoltaic cells, batteries and electric grids. Additionally, the TME division has a profound collaboration with the VIVES university of applied technologies, which is strongly involved with KU Leuven in applied research using hydrogen.


Nowadays, guaranteeing reliable provision of energy and drinking water becomes less evident by geopolitical tensions and climate disasters. In several regions around the globe, the energy availability is scarce, whilst water may be accessible, but not necessarily potable, as seen during inundations. The logistical challenges to assure both energy and potable water supply are sometimes complex and demanding, especially in areas where vital infrastructure is not existing, has been destroyed, or where hostilities take place. In an attempt to address these issues ecologically, the HYDE project was launched under DEFRA (DEFence-related Research Action). Hereby, the project partners of KU Leuven, VIVES and Solenco Power will investigate, design and test a solar-energy-driven energy and water supply system (EWSS) employing hydrogen for encampments up to 250 persons. The assessment of the design will be performed by means of a reduced-scale demonstrator developed during the project, which will be tested in collaboration with OWI-lab and Belgian Defence. The project will strive for a system with large as possible self-sufficiency, whilst energy buffering will be established electrically in batteries and chemically in hydrogen using PEM fuel cell and electrolyser technologies.

The PhD project focusses on the development of the necessary theoretical thermal, electrochemical and electrical models, taking into account the thermal and electrical demands of the encampments and the precautions that must established to keep the systems functional in a wide range of military-grade operating conditions. It will also combine the models from parallel research conducted by the project partners and compile this into a system design code. This code must allow for the preliminary design and the selection of the optimal EWSS.


You are a dynamic and passionate problem-solver. You can work independently but also in a multidisciplinary team consisting of knowledge institutes, industry and Belgian Defence.

The candidate:

  • Holds a master’s degree in Engineering Sciences or Engineering Technology, preferably in Mechanics, Electrics or Electromechanics, and has broad knowledge and understanding of electromechanical and energy systems.
  • Has the necessary stamina to successfully study electrochemistry, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and energy systems.
  • Has adequate communication skills and can present the obtained results competently and comprehensively in project meetings, conferences and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Helps in the organisation of workshops and other events.
  • Frequently reports the progress of the conducted research to the project leaders.
  • Is flexible and has good time management skills.
  • Can work autonomously and maintains good interactions with the HYDE-team under the supervision of the work package leaders.
  • Is happy to get involved in teaching assignments.
  • Wants to travel within Belgium or abroad to assist in meetings, execute tests or conduct measurements.
  • Has preferably the nationality of a NATO member state, Sweden or Finland.

Having published as (co-)author in a peer-reviewed journal is an advantage, but not a requirement. Similarly, earlier expertise gained as an academic research assistant or as a research engineer in industry is an advantage, but not a requirement.

The project will be performed in close collaboration with Belgian Defence, but complies with the Ethical Commission Dual Use, Military Use and Misuse of Research (EC DMM) requirements. The candidate must be willing to work in this context.


  • A competitive remuneration package in line with the industry standards of Belgium, a country with a high quality of life and an excellent health system.
  • You will work in the historical city of Bruges, also known as the Venice of the North, in the heart of Europe. Bruges is at 1h from Brussels by train, with a direct link to the international airport “Brussels National”.
  • The opportunity to pursue a PhD degree in Engineering Technology, a trajectory that typically takes 4 years, in a young and dynamic research team. You will be given a 1-year contract as probation, but financing is available for 4 years.
  • Become part of a top-ranking university within a multi-disciplinary team made of knowledge institutes and industry.
  • The possibility to acquire exciting field experiences, which can only be offered in a Defence context.

Salary scale of Assistant at KU Leuven
Times Higher Education: KU Leuven ranking


Please provide:

– A motivation letter and CV with at least 2 references who can be contacted.
– A pdf version of your Master thesis.
– Transcripts (overview of study results) of your Bachelor’s and Master’s studies. Provide preliminary results if the Master’s degree is not completed yet.
– If possible, a certificate of an English language test (IELTS or TOEFL).

For more information, please contact Prof. dr. Frank Buysschaert (

You can apply for this job no later than January 31, 2023 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at





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