2 PhD Responsive Colloids for Switchable Optics (1,0 FTE): Within the recently awarded STW Open Technology project Responsive Colloids for Switchable Optics” we currently have two four year PhD positions available at Utrecht University (UU).

The objective of this project is to design and build tunable optical devices (e.g. lenses) based on electrophoretic switching of the refractive index using responsive colloidal dispersions. Such electro-optical components can be used for example to enhance the functionality of LED lamps.

The basis of this project lies in electrophoretic displays (e-paper, well-known from e-reader devices), where the colour of a pixel can be controlled by electrophoretically moving coloured particles. We will extend this principle to manipulating the refractive index. By employing an external field to control the local concentration of (high-index) colloidal particles in a medium, the local refractive index can be changed, and that in turn can be used to create switchable optical effects. The aim is to uncover the potential of this phenomenon by, aimed at switchable optical components such as lenses, diffusers and gratings. In this project we are currently recruiting 2 PhD students, who will work closely together.

  1. The first position is materials oriented. You will develop and prepare the responsive colloids of (high-index) nanoparticles on which the optical devices can be based. You will characterize the dispersions (stability, optical activity, charge ) and test them in simple test cells to check their performance.
  2. The second position is device oriented. You will develop, model and build test cells and setups to test the dispersions from project 1, and investigate the (optical) behaviour of the dispersions in relation to external stimuli (flow, (di)electrophoresis). You will develop and test prototypes for active optical components, ultimately aimed at developing a (flat) switchable lens prototype. Your feedback will enable the person in project 1 to improve the materials system.

This project will be conducted in close collaboration with Philips, DSM, Unilever, Anteryon and FOM/AMOLF.


Position 1: You have recently obtained an MSc or equivalent degree in chemistry or materials science related to (nano)particle development, synthesis and characterisation of colloidal dispersions. You have a strong interest in the physical and optical aspects of colloids and are motivated to employ your materials in a real device.

Position 2: You have recently obtained an MSc or equivalent degree in (experimental) physics or materials science related to the (electro)optical aspects of (nano)materials. You also have affinity with the chemical aspects of colloids, and proven affinity or experience in the development, modelling or testing of experimental setups.

Due the highly co-operative nature of the project, we seek candidates with excellent communicative skills.

Each candidate is offered a full-time position for one year, which will be extended by another three years upon positive evaluation. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. After successful completion of the research a PhD degree will be granted at UU. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. UU assists any new PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

The gross salary is in the range between € 2.125,- and maximum € 2.717,- per month.


Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues.

The Faculty of Science consists of six departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 3500 students and nearly 2000 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty’s academic programmes reflect developments in today’s society.

The Soft Condensed Matter (SCM) group of the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University is part of the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science. The focus of the group is the study of the behaviour of colloids in external fields, such as electric, shear flow, gravity, and (structured) walls, and this fundamental knowledge is used in the design of functional smart materials. The group designs and studies colloids in the interdisciplinary context of chemistry and physics, and uses a range of experimental methods (such as light/X-ray scattering, real space analysis using confocal microscopy, self-assembly, optical characterization, scanning and transmission electron microscopy and spectroscopy) as well as computer simulations.

The application deadline is: 31/08/2015