The Thermal and Fluids Engineering research group headed by Prof. M. Baelmans focuses on modeling, numerical simulation, and optimization of thermal, fluid and kinetic transport phenomena. Embedded in KU Leuven’s Mechanical Engineering Department, Applied Mechanics and Energy Conversion Section, applications range from thermal management in electronic components, over heat transfer and storage devices to thermal networks and nuclear fusion reactors. Starting from dedicated component and system models, existing designs are critically reviewed and implicit design assumptions are challenged. This leads to innovative concepts and designs for electronic devices, coolers, heat exchangers and integrated energy systems. Due to a wide range of applications, a unique combination of expertise in CFD and advanced optimization techniques is available within the research group. Its close collaboration with renowned research institutions in the region such as IMEC, EnergyVille, SCK-CEN and Forschungszentrum Juelich, as well as the expertise available in our comprehensive university, add on to the unique and inspiring research environment we create.

Aperam is a listed multinational company in stainless steel. The company has 6 production facilities located in Belgium (2), France (3) and Brazil (1). Aperam employs 9500 people. 1100 of them are based in Genk which makes the Aperam Genk plant one of the largest and most important employers in the region. The current production capacity of Aperam is 2.5 million tons of flat stainless steel. Approximately 40% is produced in the Genk plant.

The production of stainless steel holds a series of well defined productions steps. One of the most important production steps is the pickling process which removes the surface oxide layer (a.k.a. scale) formed during previous steps. This pickling process is executed in two subsequent stages: electrolytic pickling and chemical pickling. Electrolytic pickling is commonly used in the industry to remove the out-most oxidelayer, followed by chemical pickling to remove the chromium-depleted layer. Unfortunately the current electrolytic pickling efficiency is low (down to 30%) and the process itself is poorly understood. Indeed, electrolytic pickling is a complex process involving two-phase fluid flow, electrochemical reactions and a varying current distribution. To be able to increase the efficiency and to access and optimize the different pickling configurations a numerical model is needed.

This PhD proposal involves the development of such a numerical model to simulate the current density through the electrodes, electrolyte and the moving steel strip. Wth this model we should be able to access the influence of the pickling cell geometry, the material properties of the steel strip and the electrodes (anode, cathode), the electrolyte conductivity and temperature and the strip speed.


[1] N. Ipek, N. Lior, M. Vynnycku, and F.H. Bark, "Numerical and experimental study of the effect of gas evolution in electrolytic pickling", Journal of Applied electrochemistry, 2006.

[2] N. Ipek, A. Cornell, and M. Vynnycky, "A mathematical model for the electrochemical pickling of steel", Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 2007.

[3] J. Schillings, O. Doche, J. Deseure, "Modeling of electrochemically generated bubbly flow under buoyancy-driven and forced convection", Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 2015.


We are looking for a highly motivated, enthusiastic and communicative researcher with a Master of Science degree in Engineering, or a related field, from a reputable institute. Strong analytic skills are required, as evidenced by excellent study results.

As no funding is readily available to start the research, the job offer is conditional on the candidate successfully applying for a VLAIO Baekeland-mandate.