PhD position ‘Proteins on Steel’
We are currently looking for an early stage researcher for a consortium project in which 3 industrial partners, NIZO, Wageningen University (WU), Technical University of Eindhoven (TUE) and University of Applied Science Van Hall Larenstein (VHL) work together on absorption of proteins on steel surfaces. The research will comprise both experimental work as well as theoretical interpretation regarding the a fundamental investigation on the molecular level of the interactions and mechanisms that play a role in the adsorption of protein molecules on stainless steel surfaces.
The research work is envisaged to be the subject of a PhD thesis at WU or TUE. The position is for four years. The researcher will be based at NIZO in Ede, the Netherlands. There will be close collaboration with TUE and WU and access to equipment at these universities.
Supervisor will be Dr. R. Hans Tromp.
The aim of the project is to understand and prevent fouling by (food) protein in industrial processing lines. Fouling, the adsorption of protein on the steel surface of the equipment, gives rise to microbial growth, reduced heat transfer and loss in production time due to the need of regular cleaning. In general, fouling is considered a sustainability issue, because it leads to waste of energy and water. Therefore, there is a demand for understanding fouling, and the ability to predict and prevent fouling.
The research approach in this project is intended specifically to combine industrial relevance and scientific rigor.
The research consists of three work packages:
- designing and building a dedicated set up for generating and measuring fouling under well defined, and at the same time industrially relevant, conditions
- a fundamental investigation on the molecular level of the interactions and mechanisms that play a role in the adsorption of globular protein molecules on stainless steel surfaces
- a modelling effort aimed at translating the fouling data into predictions and prevention of fouling for future (novel) processes
The work will involve studying purpose-made, possibly pre-treated steel specimen exposed to model protein solutions (e.g. proteins from milk) at certain physical conditions (flow, temperature, reducing agent etc.) and analyzing the protein adsorbed at the surface using a wide range of spectroscopic (IR, quartz micro balance) and microscopic equipment (classical, confocal, SEM).
We expect that among the results will be rules that predict the protein adsorption on steel, dependent on the type of protein, concentration of protein, degree of denaturation of the protein, salt conditions, roughness and pre-treatment of the steel surface and redox conditions (presence of a reducing agent). Part of the results should also be a route towards how to prevent protein adsorption, using the fundamental scientific data.
Suitable candidates will have finalized a master study in chemistry or physical chemistry. A basic knowledge of protein and metal chemistry will be an advantage.