PhD on low-carbon concrete with reduced thermal conductivity

Publié il y a 2 semaines

KU Leuven is a top 50 university in the world, and has been ranked as the most innovative university in Europe, and 7th in the world (Reuters, 2019). The Unit of Civil Engineering at Campus Bruges consists of two research groups, (i) Coastal and Geotechnical Engineering, and (ii) RecyCon. The first research group focuses on the interaction between water, soil and structures, with application in hard and soft sea defenses, offshore energy and (deep) foundations. The RecyCon research group concentrates on research on resource-efficient and circular construction via smart and sustainable material management in the construction industry. A growing interest towards the use of recycled materials has resulted in different applications for secondary materials. This is especially important in the context of a circular economy. However, thorough research is necessary to ensure the quality of products and applications with recycled materials. The project on low-carbon concrete with reduced thermal conductivity is a collaboration between RecyCon (low-carbon and circular building materials), the New Materials group (sustainable functional polymer materials), and the M group (mechatronics, sensors), all hosted on Campus Bruges of KU Leuven.


Thecurrent energy concerns urge new solutions for the built environment. Concreteis the most popular building material across the world and it is generallyconsidered to be an energy-efficient material, since its high thermal massreduces heating and cooling loads, averaging out temperature extremes.Thanks to its enclosed microscopic air cells, cellular concrete has often excellentthermal insulation properties. However, its use is greatly restricted becauseit must satisfy not only the thermal performance needs but also structuralperformance requirements. The production of Portland cement, the mainingredient of conventional concrete generates about 8% of the world’s CO2emissions, which means low carbon alternatives are desperately needed.Recently, recycled fines derived from grinding the mineral components ofconstruction and demolition waste (CDW), such as ground concrete powders(GCPs) and ground clay brick powders (GBPs) have shown real potential aspartial substitutes for Portland cement (OPC) in the manufacture of concrete,improving both the ecological and thermal performance of concrete becauseof increased porosity and reduced density of the material. However,incorporating those recycled fines can adversely affect the strength anddeformation properties of concrete; more importantly, it makes thematerial less durable, since recycled fines often have a more porousstructure, which can increase the permeability of concrete.

The PhD project is part of4-year research project funded by FWO (Research Foundation – Flanders) aimingat innovative solutions to improve the energy-efficiency of buildings. The goalof this PhD project is to develop a new low-carbon concrete with reducedthermal conductivity through an optimized incorporation of recycled fines fromconstruction and demolition waste (CDW), and to set up a methodology tomeasure, test and validate the thermal performance of the developed concretematerials. The candidate will develop a new concrete with enhanceenergy-efficiency and eco-efficiency, and will apply chemical and mechanicalcharacterization methods to investigate the properties of the manufacturedmaterial.

We are looking for afirst-class, motivated, hard-working PhD candidate, who will conduct innovativeresearch in the field of building materials and concrete technology. The idealcandidate should have excellent construction materials science and technology knowledgeas well as sufficient laboratory skills. A strong interest in low-carbon andsustainable concrete mixtures is expected.

Successful completion ofthe research project will lead to a PhD degree in Engineering Technology –Civil Engineering at KU Leuven, as well as a number of research outputs.  Research results from this PhD project will bepublished in decent international scientific journals, and will be presented atconferences as well as to industry and other potential users.


The candidate:

  • Holds a master degree (preferable from an European university) in civil engineering, construction engineering, materials engineering or equivalent and ranks within the top 10% of his/her class
  • Has a strong interest and knowledge in the field of building materials and material characterization
  • Has strong communication skills and is willing to present their research results at national and international conferences, and on social media, as well as writing research papers for publication in international peer-reviewed journals
  • Is willing to help in teaching activities and co-supervision of undergraduate projects
  • Is willing to write a PhD fellowship proposal
  • Is flexible, has good time management skills and self-discipline, can work independently as well as in a team
  • Has a creative, critical, analytical and innovative mindset
  • Is very fluent in English both spoken and written
  • Is willing to / is able to adapt the research environment
  • Experience as a researcher or in industry is a plus
  • Having authored or co-authored peer-reviewed publications is a plus


The successful candidate will be hired as a full-time PhD researcher (Special Academic Staff) at KU Leuven. We offer a full time one year contract, which can be prolonged to four years upon positive evaluation. Your main working place is the Brugge campus.

The KU Leuven pursues a policy of equal opportunity and diversity.

 Start date: as soon as possible


For more information please contact Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jiabin Li, tel.: +32 50 66 48 35, mail: or Prof. dr. Veerle Vandeginste, tel.: +32 50 66 49 32, 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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