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PhD Position “Thermal effect on starch granule suspensions” in the EU-Marie Sklodowska-Curie

PhD Position “Thermal effect on starch granule suspensions” in the EU-Marie Sklodowska-Curie
One Marie Curie ITN Early Stage Researcher (ESR) position is available from January 2019 for 36 months, as part of the MatheGram Marie Curie ETN supported by the Horizon 2020 program.

The program brings together a multi-disciplinary and inter-sectorial consortium consisting of 6 leading academic institutes, 4 industries and 6 partner organizations from 8 EU member states. The network objective is to provide a multi-disciplinary research training and to develop robust, innovative numerical models and novel experimental techniques that can predict and characterize heat generation and transfer, as well as thermal effects in granular materials.

INRA/AgroParisTech is a higher education and research institute (“Grande Ecole”) aiming at addressing some of the main global challenges of the 21st century : feeding a growing population while sustainably managing territories, preserving natural resources, supporting innovation and integrating the bioeconomy. AgroParistech is currently ranked 1st in France in the field “Agricultural sciences” in the Shanghai ranking.

The University of Surrey is located in Guildford, UK and is one of the world’s leading institutions for research excellence, was named University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times in 2016 and was awarded a Gold award in the recent Teaching Excellence Framework. The Department of Chemical and Process Engineering (CPE) is the longest established chemical engineering department in the UK and is currently ranked 5th in UK according to the Guardian League Table.


Scientific context

Starch is largely used in food industry as a thickener, while providing energy to consumers. It is found in a variety of grains or tubers; it consists in a polysaccharide which in its native form is found as dense granules, i.e. more or less spherical particles which diameter is in the range of a few micrometers. When submitted to a thermal treatment in excess of water, the physico-chemical structure of starch granules can change noticeably. The bulk consequence is the "gelatinization" of starch, in the sense that granules swell: their diameter increase while they become soft and deformable particles. Their volume fraction in a suspension grows rapidly, and eventually swollen granules occupy almost the entire volume. Such a feature is fundamental from industrial perspective, because the product transformation (starch swelling) has consequences on the product properties (starch viscosity) and then on the flow behavior of the product throughout the processing unit.

Objectives of the thesis

This job opening covers a 3-year research position to obtain a PhD degree awarded by the University of Paris-Saclay, from which AgroParisTech is a founding member.

This PhD project will investigate both experimentally and numerically thermal effects on starch granule suspensions. The objectives are the following:

i) to determine experimentally the particles swelling kinetics and the particles individual  mechanical properties as a function of gelatinization degree, which is time and temperature dependant,

ii) to establish Discrete Element Method (DEM) models combined with a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) approach for heat induced swelling of soft particles, which could predict how the suspension rheological properties evolve during thermo-mechanical treatment,

iii) to validate the coupled model by considering measurements conducted while submitting starch suspensions to thermo-mechanical treatment inside a rheometer,

iv) to develop a simplified, mechanistic model applicable for process optimization.



Candidates are required to undertake mobility when taking up their appointment (with the help of a specific financial support):

-       The PhD will be based in the AgroParistech/INRA campus near Paris, where he/she will spent 27 month, under the supervision of D. Flick and P. Menut

-       3 months will be spent at DCS to establish DEM-CFD models for simulating particle suspensions (under the supervision of C. Goniva)

-       6 months will be spent at the University of Surrey (under the supervision of M. Ramaioli).



Applicants must satisfy the eligibility requirements for ESR under the EC Horizon 2020 ITN Programme; in particular they should be eligible to be appointed as ESR in France satisfying the following criteria:

•    to have less than four years research experience after Undergraduate/Masters graduation (this is cumulative research experience and does not include management/industrial or other work experience)

•    to not hold a PhD degree (PhD candidates under 4 years of registration and before completion may apply)

•    to have resided or carried out their main activity in France for less than 12 months (cumulative) in the three years immediately prior to their recruitment.


Personal requirements

•    Master’s degree in Physics, Chemical Engineering, Food Science or Materials Science, or a closely related discipline

•    Good knowledge/demonstrated awareness of fundamental and applied rheology and rheometry

•    Ability to work in a laboratory environment, and interest for numerical simulations


Job Description:

Duties expected from the ESR are:

•    perform original research under the guidance of the project supervisors

•    actively engage in the activities of the MatheGram network: attending training workshops, collaborating with network partners, and undertaking periodic secondments at MatheGram partner organizations

•    produce written outputs as required during their PhD studies and to contribute to engagement and dissemination activities of MatheGram

•    present regular progress reports within the requirements laid down by the supervisors.


Career Stage: Early Stage Researcher or 0-4 yrs. (Post graduate)

Candidates from minorities underrepresented in science are strongly encouraged. Remuneration is competitive, in line with H2020, and will include mobility and family allowances.  Starting date: 1st March 2019 or soon after

Contact for additional details: Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be directed to paul.menut@agroparistech.fr / denis.flick@agroparistech.fr

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