ETH Zürich

PhD position in degradable and durable polymers

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PhD position in degradable and durable polymers

We are looking for a talented, enthusiastic, and creative individual to fill a PhD position in the field of sustainable polymer materials. The position will be based in the Macromolecular Engineering Laboratory, D-MAVT at ETH Zürich, Switzerland and provides great opportunities to work on cutting-edge polymer technologies as part of an interdisciplinary research team. The project is funded by an ETH Research grant and the successful applicant will be working under the supervision of Dr. Stefan Mommer.

Project background

There is currently an urgent need for the development of sustainable plastics that unite on-demand degradability and lifetime maximization, something that is otherwise conflicting. This PhD project aims to introduce a new type of polymers, which unite tuneable degradability and durability, thereby allowing to engineer the material’s lifetime: Our chosen chemical approach aims to enable on-demand degradation combined with self-healing and self-reinforcing properties to counteract aging over time. The facile degradation of the system is designed to tackle the growing environmental pollution caused by single-use plastics (SUP), the majority of which exhibit short lifetimes but extremely long degradation times. On the contrary, performance plastics require consistent mechanical properties and high durability, yet often experience aging during their extended lifespan. The polymer platform in this project is designed to undergo self-healing and self-reinforcement reactions, once the material experiences aging, therefore, mitigating the deterioration of mechanical properties. This way, durability and longevity of the corresponding polymers are increased, minimizing the need for replacement, while maintaining end-of-life treatment options. Overall, this approach aims to establish a new polymer platform that satisfies the requirements of both single-use and performance plastics.

Job description

Your main task will be the planning and execution of experimental lab work as well as the formal analysis and processing of data. Within the project this includes:

  1. Organic synthesis, optimization and spectroscopic characterization of a novel functionalized monomers, suitable for polycondensation techniques.
  2. Synthesis of polymers, thermoplastic, and elastomeric materials and their physicochemical and thermomechanical characterization as well as investigation of on-demand degradation.
  3. Studying the processes of hydrolytic aging, self-healing and self-reinforcement of polymer-based materials.

We offer a full-time position for the duration of your doctoral studies with the earliest starting date being the 2nd of May, 2024. You will work in an interdisciplinary team of researchers with in-depth experience in organic, polymer and hydrogel synthesis. Further, you will collaborate with research and project partners. Throughout the project there will be mentoring opportunities, such as to include student projects and/or degree theses into your work. You will actively participate in group and institute duties and activities. As an integral part of your work, you will publish your results in peer-reviewed journals and present them at (inter)national conferences. 

Your profile

Required qualifications:

  • MSc degree in Chemistry (or equivalent)
  • Good synthetic skills / knowledge in spectroscopic characterizations (NMR, UV-Vis, IR)
  • Excellent communication, teamwork, and organizational skills

The following additional qualifications may be advantageous:

  • Experience in Polymer Chemistry and/or polymer materials (thermoplastics, elastomers)
  • Familiarity with thermomechanical characterization of polymers
  • Background in mechanical characterization of polymer materials

We offer

You will work within a vibrant, inter-institutional, highly collaborative research environment with ample opportunities for training, exchange of expertise and networking.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We are looking forward to receiving your online application before the 10th of March with the following documents:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Copies of BSc and MSc educational records
  • A short statement of research interest (max ½ page).
  • Names and contact details of at least two references

The selection committee will review all applications within approximately 4 weeks after publication date. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Further information about MEL can be found here and here.

Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Stefan Mommer via email smommer@ethz.ch (no applications).

For recruitment services the GTC of ETH Zurich apply.

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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