Research Topic: Rare earth elements are strategic materials that can be found nowadays in most consumer products, but which production processes produce very large amounts of harmful emissions. Hence 97% of its production currently occurs in China. The project REE-CYCLE (for Rare Earth Element reCYCling with Low harmful Emissions) will aim at developing more environmentally friendly processes, and could therefore have a huge societal, economic and environmental impact at a global level.

Such processes are based on liquid-liquid extraction. Liquid-liquid extraction, also known as solvent extraction and partitioning, is a method to separate compounds based on their relative solubilities in two different immiscible liquids, usually water and an organic solvent. It is an extraction of a substance from one liquid phase into another liquid phase. In order to develop a new process, one need to study new Liquid–liquid extraction components, associated phase diagrams and both from an experimental and theoritycal point of view. If performed in a traditional manner this can be a very lengthy process that can take up to few years per phase diagram. In REE-CYCLE we propose to address this search using microfluidic devices that should enable phase diagram studies in a matter of days or weeks.

This first ERC REE-CYCLE position aims at developing the core device on which the project will greatly depend: an integrated microfluidic chip that can perform liquid-liquid extraction of lanthanides in a very reproducible and controlled environment. The microfluidic chip and sensors will be embedded in a dedicated sealed package. The manipulation of fluids inside the channels will be enabled by pressure-driven flow controllers, in conjunction with high resolution flow sensors. All this architecture will be driven with a dedicated software interface, to control the laminar flows through the microfluidic chip and perform real-time measurements.

In this context, the objectives for this post-doctoral position are to:

  • Review existing vapor-phase sensors, and selection of appropriate technology relevant to the project targets, based upon validation tests that should be carried out in the first post-doc period.
  • On parallel, design of both the microfluidic liquid-liquid extraction chip, and its packaging.
  • Follow-up of the chip fabrication process (carried out in the 8inches wafer fab clean-rooms at CEA-LETI).
  • Improve/adapt the existing test bench overall setup and software interface.
  • Fluidic tests: by varying the flow rates in both channels, to control the exchanging time.

Context and collaboration: This work located in Grenoble, France, in the middle of the French Alps will benefit from a very multidisciplinary and international environment at the interface of three institutes:

This work will benefit from the prestigious framework of the ERC ( and namely the advanced project « REE-CYCLE » (PI, T. Zemb & co –PI JC Gabriel: The objective of this job is key to the project and it will therefore place the candidate in a very special and core position.

The successful candidate will have access to many different pieces of knowledge, technologies, experiments as well as characterization tools, ranging from simple tabletop optical microscope to the latest generation synchrotron (ESRF, : for phase diagram studies). This position is therefore a great opportunity to enhance your knowledge base, your skills as well as your value on the job market.

Key Qualifications:

  • Successful candidates should have at minima an Engineering degree with few years of practical experience in a relevant field (microfluidics, micro- nanotechnology, applied physics, instrumentation, chemistry, etc) and a publication track record.
  • Candidate should have an interest and/or experience in microfluidics, different sensing methods, instrumentation development, as well as complementary simulation and design. Valuable. Hands-on experience with vapor –phase sensing methods, labview programming, microfabrication techniques is a plus.
  • Candidate should be available to interview at CEA/Grenoble and to start work ASAP.
  • Demonstrated ability to work on interdisciplinary projects and to quickly and efficiently acquire new technical skills outside the sphere of primary training.
  • A target-oriented, structured attitude and team spirit are absolutely necessary. Excellent communication skills and fluency in English are required (working language will be either French or English). We further expect creativity in problem solving and integrative skills.
  • Energetic, proactive, results-oriented, and self-motivated team player with strong organizational skills.
  • Ideal candidate will be adept at planning, prioritizing, multi-tasking, organizing, following through, and thinking on his/her feet.

We offer: This position comes with a very attractive benefit package, typical of French working environment. It will provide excellent working conditions in a highly interdisciplinary environment.

Starting date: The position is vacant and will start as soon as possible (duration up to 24 Months).

Position host location: CEA, MINATEC Campus, 17 rue des Martyrs, 38054 Grenoble Cedex 9, France

Application: Candidate should send as soon as possible CV, Cover Letter and References to:

Immediate superior: Dr. Jean-Christophe P. Gabriel

Scientific and advisory board:

Name Technical part covered in the project Institution
V. Agache microfluidics design, fabrication and instrumentation CEA/LETI
J-C. Gabriel Microfabrication, vapor-phase sensors, sensing methods/tests. CEA
T. Zemb Phase diagrams, liquid-liquid extraction ICSM
R. Laucournet Recycling process LITEN