Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)
Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)
Nieuwegein, Netherlands
Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)

Science for future energy

The issues of energy and climate change require us to develop sustainable energy on a global scale. This transition is one of mankind’s biggest challenges in this century and its success depends on our solving a score of scientific questions.

Our mission

The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER wants to conduct leading fundamental research in the fields of fusion and solar fuels, in close partnership with academia and industry. To successfully transfer fundamental insights to society at large, we are actively building an energy science society through the formation of multidisciplinary networks.

Fusion research

Fusion energy has the potential to deliver concentrated, safe and clean energy from the process powering the sun and stars. DIFFER has two fusion research programs, which both address high priority topics in the European Fusion Roadmap. We explore the intense plasma surface interactions expected at the wall of future fusion power plants with our unique high-flux plasma generators Magnum-PSI and Pilot- PSI. In such reactors, control of the burning plasma is of crucial importance to efficient operation and in our second fusion program, we develop insights and control systems for the magnetohydrodynamic instabilities in a fusion reactor. DEMO: The step between ITER and a commercial power plant. DEMO will mark the first step of fusion power into the energy market by supplying electricity to the grid. DEMO will largely build on the ITER experience. The construction has to begin in the early 2030s to meet the goal of fusion electricity demonstration by 2050.

Solar fuels research

On the shorter timescale, the big challenge in the energy transition is to integrate fluctuating sustainable electricity in an infrastructure which demands predictable power production. This is closely connected to the issue of global energy storage and transport, and at DIFFER we aim to tackle this challenge by converting intermittent sustainable energy into fuels. For instance, DIFFER investigates the splitting of water into hydrogen or the activation of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, and the processing of these products into a hydrocarbon fuel. The research involves the synthesis and design of novel materials and processes to obtain scalable, efficient and cost-effective systems.

Building an energy science society

The transition to a fully sustainable energy system is a global challenge, with players from all fields of science, industry and politics. For the Netherlands to participate in this task, it needs a strong and coherent national research program. A well-connected and collaborative network researchers is a promising soil for innovative breakthroughs in sustainable energy. DIFFER wishes to play a national role in basic energy research by helping develop a multidisciplinary community focused on science for future energy.

Fresh start in energy research at new home base

DIFFER was started in 2012 as the focal energy research activity of the Dutch organisation for scientific research NWO and of its physics branch FOM, the foundation for fundamental research on matter. The institute expands the previous FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen into a multidisciplinary national home for basic energy research. We perform fundamental energy research in the fields of nuclear fusion and solar fuels, actively working together with academic researchers. DIFFER also connects to research and development at enterprises and industries. To accelerate technology innovation, we are building an active national community on energy research. For an optimal interaction with the broader academic world and to expand its facilities, DIFFER has built a new, highly sustainable building on the campus of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the south of the country. The institute moves to the BREEAM-NL Excellent building in May 2015. Read more on our New building page (in Dutch).

PhD position: Virtual Materials Discovery for Energy Applications at DIFFER
The PhD project is in the general field of computational materials design for energy applications. The project will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. Süleyman Er, and will involve intensive collaborations with researchers from the Netherlands and the US.
Postdoc position: Synplasma
Scientific aim: In framework of the EnOp (Energie Opslag) Programme financed by Interreg (Vlaanderen–Nederland) the Solar Fuels group Plasma Solar Fuels Devices has a vacancy for a postdoctoral researcher. The project objective of EnOp is the development and demonstration of (embryonic) sustainable CO2 conversion technologies for the storage of renewable energy. The ultimate goal is a set of demonstrators and working pilots that converts sunlight or renewable electricity (with CO2 and water) into chemical energy carriers and/or specialty chemicals. The challenge in the DIFFER part is to produce synthesis gas at an up scalable way by plasma-enhanced catalytic CO2 conversion. The output product synthesis gas is a mixture of CO and hydrogen. The advantage of this product is that the conversion into hydrocarbon fuels is a standard chemical process (e.g. via the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis). In this project DIFFER cooperates in a multi-disciplinary approach involving groups in Hasselt and Antwerp to cover the entire process chain for the production of syngas through a up scalable pilot reactor. The experimental approach aims at obtaining more detailed understanding of the reaction mechanism, which serves as input for the optimization of the overall performance in combination with upscaling. The position is fully embedded in the 'Solar Fuels' strand of the Institute that strives for excellent fundamental energy research. Advanced plasma reactor design, diagnostics, modelling, and catalytic follow-up chemistry are key elements.
PhD position: Instrumentation for materials under extreme particle fluxes
This position is part of the M2I project Materials behaviour under extreme particle and radiation loading, aiming the atomic and ionic hydrogen loading of fusion (W) and fission components (steel and its alloys under high hydrogen pressure) and the collectors and optics in lithography systems under intense tin, EUV and hydrogen fluxes. The programme involves three industrial (RI, ECN/NRG and ASML) and three academic (TU/e, TUD, DIFFER) partners with support of the University of Groningen.