Development of americium-based radioisotopes power sources for space missions

Research / Academic

Americium-241 is currently the preferred choice for the power source of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and radioisotope heater units (RHUs) in Europe, as it can be produced at an acceptable cost, and the extraction and purifications technologies for its production are already mature. Various forms of the source are considered for RTGs and RHUs, notably uranium-stabilised americium oxide ceramics. However, the fundamental knowledge on this type of materials is still limited. Moreover, the neptunium-237 content of the source will build up over time as it is a daughter product of 241-americium. For a thorough safety assessment of this power source and to help the synthesis process, more insights into the complex chemistry of the americium-uranium-neptunium-oxygen system are required.
The goal of the PhD project will be to improve the understanding of this complex system. To achieve this, the candidate will perform research combining experimental activities and thermodynamic modelling. Some of the key tasks to be performed will be:
- the synthesis of relevant compositions
- the structural and thermodynamic characterization of the prepared materials
- the development of a thermodynamic model of the americium-uranium-neptunium-oxygen system using the CALPHAD method.
- Using the latter model, thermodynamic equilibria calculations based on Gibbs energy minimization will be performed to predict behaviour with respect to oxygen potential and temperature.


We are looking for an outstanding candidate with a completed Master’s degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or a related field. Candidate should have an affinity for multidisciplinary fields of research and a hands-on attitude towards experimental work. Computer skills in thermodynamic modelling are also highly desirable. We expect creativity, flexibility and ability to co-operate within an interdisciplinary research group. Excellent communication skills, including good written and spoken English, as well as the ability to conduct independent scientific work are required. The candidate will be based for 2 years at the TU Delft, and for 2 consecutive years at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission located in Karlsruhe (Germany) to perform experimental work. Delft University of Technology is a bilingual organisation; fluency in English is essential.

Salary Benefits:

The selected candidate will be employed by TU Delft for a period of 24 months and by JRC for a period of 24 consecutive months.
TU Delft:
The TU Delft offers a customizable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers child care and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.
As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.
The PhD candidate will get a grantholder-20 (GH20) contract from the European Commission covering a period of 2 consecutive years. For rules of the GH20 contract, please consult
Eligibility criteria for GH20:
Candidates should, prior to the start of the employment contract with the JRC:
- have the nationality of a Member State of the EU or a country associated to the Research Framework Programmes or being resident in a EU Member State since at least five years.
Candidates who are already enrolled in the doctoral study program with the TU Delft for fewer than 12 months can also be considered eligible.

Work Hours:

40 hours per week


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