PhD position on the understanding of the microstructure of vesicles in sustainable fabric softeners

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
December 02, 2022
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD position on the understanding of the microstructure of vesicles in

sustainable fabric softeners

(ref. BAP-2022-755)

Last modification : Thursday, October 20, 2022

This PhD project will be performed in the Soft Matter Rheology and Technology (SMaRT) section in the Chemical Engineering Department at KU Leuven under the supervision of Prof. Christian Clasen (https: //, and in the Soft Matter and Biophysics group of the Department of Physics under the supervision of Prof. Pavlik Letting (https: // The research in the SMaRT group is mostly of experimental nature and aims at designing methodologies for intelligent process or product (formulation) design using so-called “complex fluids” or “soft matter”. Extensive state-of- the-art and home-built experimental facilities for the characterization of mechanical properties in the liquid state (bulk as well as interfacial rheology), combined with various techniques to characterize microstructure development during flow are available. Moreover, the lab is equipped with combined high speed confocal microscopy and rheometry, required for the conduction of this PhD project.

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One of the main challenge of creating a sustainable future is to replace non- sustainable ingredients in the plethora of industrial consumer products by sustainable ones. This requires a reformulation of the products and thus revisiting our fundamental understanding of the products microstructures and how they can be achieved during formulation. P&G, together with a consortium of companies and universities, set out to undertake this process for their laundry products.

One of the main challenges in developing novel and sustainable fabric softeners is to understand the interaction between critical molecules as emulsified perfumes, and the surfactant vesicles that are ultimately responsible for the softening effect by interacting with the surface structure of a fabric. These charged cationic vesicles are effectively forming colloidal glasses which have a concentration dependent yield stress and exhibit a shear thinning rheological behaviour. Over time these cationic vesicles will eventually incorporate other molecules present, as for example perfumes. As a result the vesicles swell and deform and these microstructural changes cause an alteration of the rheological properties as well, usually described as an ageing of the fabric softener in its finished product form. The aim of this PhD is to study and understand the process of interaction between cationic vesicles and smaller molecules, utilising micro- and nano-structural characterisation techniques..

This project is a collaboration between P&G and the department of physics as well as of chemical engineering and at KU Leuven. This consortium is looking for a PhD with a background in physical chemistry/chemical engineering/rheology/soft matter. Knowledge of scattering and microscopic techniques, as well of rheology is a plus.

  • You are recently graduated or will soon graduate with a master degree in materials science, chemical engineering, physics or a related discipline.

  • You have excellent analytical skills, high grades and you are a creative and critical thinker.

  • You are highly motivated to start your career in research and to pursue a PhD degree during a four year research period.

  • You have prior experience in experimental research obtained during project or thesis work, preferably in the area of soft matter, rheology, surfactants, polymers, or suspensions.

  • You are able to report your progress in an accurate and timely fashion.

  • You have excellent communication skills, with fluency in both written and spoken English.

  • You are open for collaboration with the other team members.

  • Offer
  • Full-time PhD position with a competitive salary and additional benefits such as health insurance, access to university sports facilities, etc.

  • The opportunity to work and live in one of the most innovative universities and cities in Europe. Leuven is located 20 min from Brussels, in the centre of Europe.

  • International working environment and possibility to present your work on international conferences.

  • Your research will form part of the FAST project (FABRIC ENHANCER SUSTAINABLE TRANSFORMATION), involving a consortium of several universitiy research groups and industrial partners

  • Your research will be embedded in two world-renowned research groups in the area of Soft Matter, Rheology and Technology (SMaRT group of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and the Soft Matter and Biophysics group of the Department of Physics).

  • A state-of-the-art experimental infrastructure.

  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will participate in the Arenberg Doctoral School doctoral training program (Doctoral Training – Arenberg Doctoral School (

  • Interested?

    For more information please contact Prof. dr. Pavlik Lettinga, tel.: +32 16 32 25 70, mail: or Prof. dr. Christian Clasen, tel.: +32 16 32 23 54, mail:

    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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