PhD Position | Operando Water Dissociation and Water Formation

Young Researchers Berlin
Chemistry Solid State Research & Material Sciences Particle, Plasma and Quantum Physics
Job Offer from July 27, 2021

The Department of Interface Science headed by Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya at the Fritz Haber Institute carries out cutting-edge research on advanced functional materials with applications in heterogeneous catalysis, energy conversion and electrochemistry. By combining unique synthesis methods, state-of-the art tools for experimental characterization and advanced approaches to data analysis, atomistic details of thermal catalysis and electrochemical reactions at gas/solid and liquid/solid interfaces are revealed. In particular, structure-reactivity correlations on nanostructured materials can be established, paving the way for the rational design of novel catalytic materials.

 We are currently looking for a PhD student (m/f/d) for the electrochemistry group within the Department of Interface Science - Project: Operando Water Dissociation and Water Formation.

Water needs to be dissociated (H2O -> H+ + OH-) whenever it is directly involved in an electrochemical reaction, such as for the hydrogen evolution reaction in alkaline conditions where the concentration of free protons is very low (2 H2O + 2e- -> H2 + 2OH-). Similarly, water formation (H+ + OH- -> H2O) is important for electrocatalysts in fuel cells. We have recently made a major advance in studying operando water dissociation independently of the electron transfer steps occurring in electrocatalysis by using bipolar membranes.

 The selected candidate will be joining this new research direction that is being established within the ISC department. Your main goal will be to better understand operando water dissociation and water formation during electrocatalysis and inside the bipolar membrane junction. In particular, you will study the effects of water dissociation on the electrocatalyst activity, stability and selectivity. This will involve developing new experimental operando techniques and using Multiphysics simulations to model the transport processes occurring inside bipolar membrane junctions. The targeted applications will be water electrolysis, fuel cells and electrochemical CO2 reduction, among others.

 The PhD position is for three years.


 We expect candidates to have:

  • a MSc degree in Physics, Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Materials Science or Chemical Engineering with excellent grades in relevant courses. Experience in Electrochemistry is a clear advantage,
  • an affinity for performing complex electrochemistry experiments with a high drive to solve scientific and practical/instrumental challenges,
  • experience with simulations (e.g. COMSOL) or programming languages (e.g. Matlab or Python) is preferred,
  • a collaborative spirit and ability to work in an international research environment.


Please submit your application via our online application portal as soon as possible but latest by October 31, 2021 including the following documents:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • List of peer-reviewed publications
  • Names and email addresses of three references

For more information, please contact

Dr. Sebastian Oener

Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society
Faradayweg 4-6
14195 Berlin

Max Planck Society

The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft endeavours to achieve gender equality and diversity. Furthermore the Max Planck Society aims to increase the participation of women in research. Therefore, applications by women are particularly welcome. The Max Planck Society is also committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.


The Fritz Haber Institute (FHI) is located in the quiet south-west of Gemany’s capital Berlin, which is a large, tolerant and cosmopolitan city. Berlin offers a wide variety of culture, art, music, and outdoor opportunities.

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