The mission of the Max-Planck-Institut for Sustainable Materials (MPI SusMat) is to understand and design materials down to atomic and scales. In this spirit, we conduct basic research on structural and functional materials, mostly metallic alloys, embracing synthesis and processing, characterization and properties, as well as their response in engineering components exposed to real environmental conditions. We work interdisciplinary, with intense mutual stimulation among experimentalists and theoreticians as well as among different groups and departments.

The project is to be started as soon as possible.

PhD f/m/d – Recovery of valuable metals from industrial side streams through hydrogen plasma smelting reduction

The scarcity of high-grade iron ores to feed the iron and steelmaking is a near reality. At the same time, this sector faces a huge challenge to decarbonize its process chains as iron is nowadays produced via the blast-furnace and basic oxygen converter route (BF-BOF), a fact that emits 2.1 tons of CO2 per ton of steel produced. To tackle both problems, this research offer proposes, on the one hand, exploiting industrial side streams as an alternative source of iron, thus enhancing circularity through recycling, and on the other hand, using the sustainable hydrogen plasma smelting reduction (HPSR) approach as the extraction technique to obtain iron and possibly other valuable metals (Ni, Cr, etc.) that might be present in such industrial waste. The by-product of the HPSR route is water, as the reducing agents are highly reactive hydrogen plasma species (H atoms, H+ protons) rather than C-based substances.

The candidate will work on the hydrogen plasma smelting reduction of industrial wastes (dusts, fines and debris) and on the post characterization of the obtained products and by-products. The latter involves the evaluation of the microstructure, local chemistry, reduction efficiency, hydrogen consumption, to name a few. The main objective of the research is to understand the fundamental aspects behind the redox chemical transformations that drive the precipitation of iron and other metals within industrial wastes when exposed to hydrogen plasma. The obtained results will be the basis for understanding a novel synthesis and processing route.

This thesis evolves from a larger collaboration between CNRS (Institut Jean Lamour, France) and MPI SusMat, which offers the candidate a range of opportunities for materials synthesis and characterization. Both institutions provide a range of methods for materials characterization and laboratory scale materials synthesis, providing key tools for in-depth investigation of both materials and processes. This thesis evolves from an EU project called ‘H2PlasmaRed’ with a total duration of 4 years.

Your tasks:

  • Manage and coordinate the collaboration between MPI SusMat and CNRS, including the evaluation and interpretation of measurements.
  • Preparation of specimens using metallographic and micromechanical tools for microstructural investigations with various electron microscopes (EM).
  • Performing sophisticated microstructural and microchemical characterization using electron diffraction (e.g. EBSD), spectroscopy (e.g. EDX, ICP-OES) and tomography (e.g. APT).
  • Measurements of optical emission spectroscopy (OES) for understanding the chemical transformations occurring also in the atmosphere of the reactor.
  • Interpretation of results from a materials physics perspective and discussion of process modifications or optimization
  • Publication of scientific results in highly reputed international journals and presentation of scientific results at conferences and meetings.
  • Regular meetings and collaboration with CNRS collaborators, both online and on-site at the Institut Jean Lamour in Nancy/France.

Your profile:

We are looking for a materials’ scientist/engineer, extraction, physical and/or process metallurgist, or chemist with a very good understanding of the principles of phase transformations, thermodynamics, physics and chemistry. Previous knowledge and experience of experimental work related to SEM and experience in working with thermodynamic calculations would be considered a strong asset. The MPI SusMat is an international workplace, the daily and professional language is English, so a good command of the language is required.

What we offer:

You will be part of a collaborative research team at the interface between fundamental research at the Max Planck Institute and research and development at the CNRS. We offer an exciting and stimulating research environment with high-level experts and access to state-of-the-art research equipment, both experimental and theoretical. The framework of the project will allow the candidate to benefit from a range of external collaborations (Univeristy of Oulu, Finland and Montanuniversitaet Leoben, Austria) and to be involved in the different aspects of materials processing, synthesis, sustainability, hydrogen metallurgy, and hydrogen plasma.


The salary is based on TVöD 13, depending on qualifications.

The Max Planck Institute for Iron Research GmbH is committed to the employment of people with disabilities and minorities and expressly encourages them to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to gender equality and diversity. Applications from all backgrounds are welcome.

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