Postdoctoral Researcher – Decarbonized Structural Building Materials/

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
United States

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado is the nation’s primary laboratory for research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

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Job Description

NREL’s Building Thermal Energy Sciences group has an opening for a postdoctoral  researcher to support and lead work relating to decarbonization of structural materials with a special focus on replacing cement in concrete.  The successful candidate will join team members on cutting-edge laboratory and analytical projects to synthesize, develop, characterize, and optimize sustainable materials for buildings and infrastructure.  The successful candidate should have a strong background and understanding of chemistry, physics, and fundamentals of bio-based materials to contribute to new research in a lignin-based sustainable building materials that are an effective alternative to concrete, based on polymer chemistry.

The successful candidate should have a strong background in either:

1. Polymer synthesis and characterization,

2. An understanding of heat and mass transfer, and/or

3. Familiarity with handling concrete.

Key Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Perform chemical modifications and characterization of lignin to form high-strength materials.
  • Characterize the chemical and thermal properties of these materials using tools like nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).
  • Characterize the mechanical and application-dependent properties using tools like dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA), tensile testing, 3-point bending testing, freeze-thaw testing, accelerated UV/heat/moisture aging tests, and compression strength testing.
  • Scale up synthesis and troubleshoot manufacturing issues.
  • Assist in project management, including writing reports, journal articles, and presentations for program review or conferences.
  • Assist in lifecycle analysis (LCA) and technoeconomic analysis (TEA)

Desired Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

The candidate will get the opportunity to be involved in detailed experimental research and linking the knowledge to several other aspects of systems engineering. Moreover, the candidate will be able to learn different techniques and measurement equipment utilized for thermal, mass transfer, mechanical, and chemical measurements.

The ideal candidate will have several or all the following:

  • Strong background in polymer synthesis, lignin chemistry, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and/or a related field.
  • Experience in experimental work synthesizing lignin and/or polymer networks and completing their characterization.
  • Demonstrated research capability and creativity to solve challenging problems, as well as the ability to work well in a team.
  • Experience with concrete characterization tools (e.g. freeze-thaw chambers, rheometers).
  • Good communication skills.
  • Ability to document the research in the form of technical reports, journal articles, and presentations.

Basic Qualifications

Must be a recent PhD graduate within the last three years.

* Must meet educational requirements prior to employment start date.

Additional Required Qualifications

  • Candidate should have a strong aptitude to learn and explore the field needed for development, to be motivated and dedicated, and to deliver research results on time and on budget.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication, documentation skills, oral and writing proficiency in English.
  • We do not expect a candidate to hold all the skills listed above but the candidate should illustrate the eagerness to learn and potential for professional growth.

Preferred Qualifications

Recent Ph.D. degree, within the last three years, in Chemistry, Materials Science, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering or related field with demonstrated experience in some or all of the following:

  • Experience in synthesizing polymers.
  • Experience with lignin chemistry.
  • Experience in concrete synthesis and characterization.
  • Knowledge of mechanical properties of polymers.

.Annual Salary Range (based on full-time 40 hours per week)

Job Profile: Postdoctoral Researcher / Annual Salary Range: $71,300 – $117,600

NREL takes into consideration a candidate’s education, training, and experience, expected quality and quantity of work, required travel (if any), external market and internal value, including seniority and merit systems, and internal pay alignment when determining the salary level for potential new employees. In compliance with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, a potential new employee’s salary history will not be used in compensation decisions.

Benefits Summary

Benefits include medical, dental, and vision insurance; short-term disability insurance*; pension benefits*; 403(b) Employee Savings Plan with employer match*; life and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance; personal time off (PTO) and sick leave; and paid holidays. NREL employees may be eligible for, but are not guaranteed, performance-, merit-, and achievement- based awards that include a monetary component. Some positions may be eligible for relocation expense reimbursement.

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