PhD Position on Plasmonics for Chemistry
VU University of Amsterdam Department of Physics and Astronomy

Do you want to tackle fundamental questions related to plasmonic activation of chemical reactions? Would you like to join an enthusiastic and diverse group of scientists studying photo-conversion materials? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


FTE: 1 

Job description

Nanoparticles of noble metals absorb and scatter visible light thanks so-called plasmon resonances, light-driven oscillations of their free charge carriers. The energy and spectral shape of these resonances strongly depend on the nanoparticle’s size, shape, composition, and surrounding. Furthermore, their radiative decay (scattering) generates intense electromagnetic fields in the vicinity of the nanoparticle surface that can activate photosensitive processes. On the other hand, their non-radiative decay (absorption) can lead to nanoscale photothermal heating and the generation of non-equilibrium, “hot” charge carriers.

For all of the above reasons, plasmon resonances are used to activate and detect a wide range of chemical and physical phenomena. In our Photoconversion Materials (PCM) group at the VU, we synthesise plasmonic nanomaterials for a variety of applications, from energy conversion and storage, to heterogeneous catalysis, and sensing. Furthermore, we characterise their photochemical properties using a range of spectroscopy and microscopy techniques, both in ensemble experiments and at the level of single nanoparticles [1-7].

The goal of the present PhD project is to tackle several fundamental questions related to plasmonic activation of chemical reactions, including [8]:

  • Can we efficiently harvest plasmonic “hot” charge carriers for photochemical redox reactions?
  • What is the role of heating on the photochemical yield under different illumination conditions?
  • Can we localize chemistry at the nanoscale via field or thermal hotspots?
  • Is plasmon-driven chemistry scalable for 2D material growth and substrate patterning?

To tackle these questions, you will use both our synthetic and characterisation techniques. You will synthesise plasmonic nanoparticles using bottom-up colloidal wet chemical methods and top-down nanolithographic techniques. Furthermore, you will characterise their photochemical properties via ensemble experiments and using single-particle techniques, such as dark-field scattering spectroscopy and microscopy and in-situsurface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.

[1] G. Kumari, R. Kamarudheen, E. Zoethout, A. Baldi, Photocatalytic Surface Restructuring in Individual Silver Nanoparticles, ACS Catalysis 11, 3478-3486 (2021); [2] R.F. Hamans, M. Parente, A. Baldi, Super-Resolution Mapping of a Chemical Reaction Driven by Plasmonic Near-Fields, Nano Letters XXX, XXXX-XXXX (2020); [3] R. Kamarudheen, G. Kumari, A. Baldi, Plasmon-driven synthesis of individual metal@ semiconductor core@ shell nanoparticles, Nature Communications 11, 1-10 (2020); [4] R. Kamarudheen, G.J.W. Aalbers, R.F. Hamans, L.P.J. Kamp, A. Baldi, Distinguishing Among All Possible Activation Mechanisms of a Plasmon-Driven Chemical Reaction, ACS Energy Letters 5, 2605-2613 (2020); [5] M. Parente, M. van Helvert, R.F. Hamans, R. Verbroekken, R. Sinha, A. Bieberle-Hütter, A. Baldi, Simple and Fast High-Yield Synthesis of Silver Nanowires, Nano Letters 20, 5759-5764 (2020); [6] M. Parente, S. Sheikholeslami, G.V. Naik, J.A. Dionne, A. Baldi, Equilibration of Photogenerated Charge Carriers in Plasmonic Core@ Shell Nanoparticles, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 122, 23631-23638 (2018); [7] R. Kamarudheen, G.W. Castellanos, L.P.J. Kamp, H.J.H. Clercx, A. Baldi, Quantifying photothermal and hot charge carrier effects in plasmon-driven nanoparticle syntheses, ACS Nano 12, 8447-8455 (2018); [8] E. Cortés, L. V. Besteiro, A. Alabastri, A. Baldi, G. Tagliabue, A. Demetriadou, P. Narang, Challenges in Plasmonic Catalysis, ACS Nano 14, 16202–16219 (2020).


You are excited to work in an international research team. You have a recent Master degree in physics, chemistry, materials science, or a related field. Prior experience in colloidal chemistry, nanophotonics, or optical microscopy and spectroscopy is not required, but is considered a plus. Excellent verbal and written communication skills in English are important. Kindness is a must ;-).

What are we offering?

By joining our PhD program, you will become part of a diverse group of people, with different scientific backgrounds, nationalities, and expertise. By the end of your PhD, you will have become an independent scientist, capable of working effectively in a team, and with excellent communication skills. We take great pride in the growth and development of our students: previous PhD students in our group have won several awards for their scientific achievements and for their communication skills and have immediately secured several job offers after graduation.

We offer a challenging position in a socially involved organisation. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 4 years. Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • good paid parental leave scheme
  • child daycare facilities available on campus

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.


We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at VU Amsterdam offers an active and engaged intellectual community composed of researchers from around the world. Research is focused on four themes: (i) high-energy and gravitational physics, (ii) quantum metrology and laser applications, (iii) physics of life and health, and (iv) physics of photosynthesis and energy. The department is involved in teaching in the programs Physics and Astronomy (joint degree with the University of Amsterdam), Science Business and Innovation, Medical Natural Sciences (all three BSc and MSc), and the BSc program in Mechanical Engineering (together with University of Twente). Furthermore, the department has a strong track record in valorization of its research, including translational research to the clinic (often together with the Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc (on campus) and location AMC), collaborations with industry (e.g. ARCNL), and a thriving startup scene.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button before 21/04/2021 and upload the following 3 documents in pdf:

  • A cover letter of maximum 1 page containing your personal details, your motivation for applying to this position, and highlighting the parts of your CV that make you suited for the position.

  • A full CV, including your past experience, your bachelor and master grades, and the contact details of at least two references. It would be helpful if the grade list could be accompanied by some explanation of their meaning: for example, if a particular grade corresponds to the top x% of students in your study program.

  • A written report, for example your master thesis, bachelor thesis, project report, etc., ideally (but not necessarily) written in English.

The job interviews will be planned shortly after the deadline (via Zoom Meetings).

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:
Name: Dr. Andrea Baldi
Position: Associate Professor Photoconversion Materials

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