PhD scholarship in Fermentation of syngas to CO2-neutral chemicals

Monday 13 Jul 20

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A PhD position is available in the frame of the joint alliance research project “Fermentation of syngas to CO2-neutral chemicals” funded by the Technical University of Denmark. The project is in close collaboration with the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering of Chalmers University of Technology and it addresses the development of a process scheme for chemicals production from syngas (a mixture of CO2, CO and H2) with renewable electricity. The targets are reduced energy consumption and decreased waste generation accompanied with zero CO2 emissions; serving also UN Sustainability Goals 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), Goal 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption) and Goal 13 (Climate action).


Residual biomasses can be very efficiently converted to syngas (a mixture of mainly CO2, CO, H2, and CH4) by gasification. The proposed project targets further conversion of carbon through a two-stage system consisting of a syngas fermentation reactor where CO, CO2 and H2 will be converted to acids and a subsequent, bioelectrochemical conversion of the residual CO2 and acids of lower molar mass to butyrate in a bioelectrochemical system using the gaseous and liquid effluent from the fermentation reactor. Butyrate will function as a model (proof-of-concept) product.


Responsibilities and tasks

The PhD student will carry out syngas fermentations and bioelectrochemical conversions primarily by mixed microbial consortia and focus on investigating the factors that affect product distribution.

The tasks will include, but not be limited to

a) Setting-up syngas fermentation and bioelectrochemical conversion systems

b) Cultivating and enriching mixed microbial consortia on syngas, carbon dioxide,    acetate and externally added electrons (bio-cathode)

c) Investigating electron flow to final products under different operating conditions d) Modeling syngas acetogenic fermentation and bioelectrochemical conversions by applying both kinetic and thermodynamic limitations

e) Developing and testing new bioreactor configurations for syngas fermentation.


In accordance to the abovementioned, the applicant should preferably have qualifications within several of the following areas:

  • Handling of pure and mixed microbial cultures under anaerobic conditions with focus on chemicals and/or biofuels production.
  • Working in batch and/or continuous mode with suspended and/or attached growth (biofilm) bioreactors.
  • Experience on syngas fermentation
  • Experience on modeling of biological processes
  • Experience in use of process simulation tools such as Matlab, Aquasim, Superpro Designer or similar.

Expertise within fermentation technology and/or syngas fermentation should be documented with the Master/Bachelor thesis and/or relevant publications in international journals.

The project and co-supervision of the PhD student will be in close collaboration with personnel enrolled in the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering of Chalmers University of Technology and long external stays will take place throughout the duration of the PhD project. Availability for a highly mobile period, openness and willingness for a fruitful collaboration across borders is therefore a prerequisite.


Candidates should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree. Also, applicants should be available to start the PhD project within 2020.


Approval and Enrolment

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.


The assessment of the applicants will be made by an evaluation committee headed by Associate Professor Hariklia Gavala.


We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.


Salary and appointment terms

The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.


The work will take place at the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby campus and at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.


You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information

Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Hariklia Gavala,

You can read more about “the Department” at

Please submit your online application no later than 15 August 2020 (23:59 local time).


Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.


Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.


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DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 11,500 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup and in Sisimiut in Greenland.