Plastic recycling has to increase by almost an order of magnitude in the coming decades to come to a fully circular economy. To facilitate this, plastic losses and/or emissions of nano-/microplastics and contaminants in the recycling process should be minimized. In addition, the emissions of small particles are a concern for water treatment effluent, air quality, and soil. The focus is on quantification and mitigation of losses and emissions in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) plastic recycling, specifically in the post-sorting steps (grinding, washing, and flake sorting).
Research challenge and objective:
To-date there is practically no research available on small plastic particles in plastic recycling processes. Most research on the analysis of small plastic particles in water focusses on environmental samples or wastewater treatment. from (Municipal) Wastewater treatment processes we know that, depending on process type and characteristics, treatment can be both a source and sink of nano-/microplastics. Analysis remains challenging due to several factors, i.e. the large variety of material, small sizes and low concentrations, large contamination risk of samples due to deposition from air and complex sample preparation due to complex chemical matrices with organic material. There is also a lack of proper reference material to validate methods as aged environmental particles are not the same as pristine laboratory particles.
Fortunately, the challenging factors above are less severe for plastic recycling processes. Generally, there is a much better idea about the type of material, type of contaminations, larger concentrations, etc. This helps simplifying the analysis, and choice of analytical tools. The objective is to identify the required analysis methods to quantify emissions and losses. This includes sample preparation techniques.
Wetsus has an extensive and state of the art laboratory for water research, including instruments for nano/microplastic research (e.g. FFF-MALS, SEM, Raman, FTIR, Malvern particle analyser, Nanosight, DLS, CLSM, optical laboratory, etc.). For this specific topic, we work in close cooperation with National Test Centre Circular Plastics (location of plastic recycling line) and the Gilbert-Armstrong laboratory (FFF-MALS and fabrication of reference material).
We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with a background (PhD) in physical chemistry, water technology or chemical engineering. The candidate will require a high level of independence and will need to be able to work from an interdisciplinary perspective.
At Wetsus, you will get the opportunity to grow with an innovative, dynamic and future-orientated top research institute. You can accelerate the development of new water solutions in cooperation with prominent companies and universities. The workplace is in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. In addition, you will regularly visit project partner NTCP in Heerenveen, The Netherlands.
Wetsus, the organization
Wetsus carries out a research programme, in the field of sustainable water technology, in cooperation with over 100 companies and 16 universities. The research takes place at the premise of Wetsus in Leeuwarden, which is equipped with state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research facilities. The research programme is organized in 20 research themes. The specific research topics are defined in those themes and carried out by PhD and postdoctoral researchers. The inspiring cooperative and multidisciplinary research results in innovations that contribute significantly to solutions for global water problems.
Wetsus is a value-based organization. We operate and interact based on the following values: Innovation, partnership, reliability, joy and cooperation.
Information and Application
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The closing date to apply for this vacancy is 01 September 2022. The interviews are expected to take place in the first weeks of September 2022. The preferred starting date is as soon as possible but no later than 1 October 2022
Keywords Nano-/Microplastics, Water Treatment, FFF-MALS