Internship | Fractionation of pyrolysis oil


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Education type


Internship and graduation project

Hours a week

Fulltime – 40


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What will be your role?

Do you want to contribute to a prominent role of biomass in the circular, biobased chemicals/materials and energy transition? The research group Biobased & Circular Technologies is looking for an enthusiastic intern!

Many day-to-day products and commodities like fuels, fuel additives, rubber additives, bitumen, (plastics) additives epoxy- and phenol-formaldehyde resins and polymers are made from fossil oils. These fossil oils need to be replaced by sustainable alternatives to complete the inevitable energy transition.
In the framework of the Biorizon program (, TNO is developing a new technology to directly obtain heavy- to light-fraction bio-oil derivates from lignin-rich biomass side-streams (plants and wood). This is done in a small pilot plant consisting of a pyrolysis section (Pyrena) and a staged condensation section (PYPO). The remaining char is used internally for generating process heat, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of the pyrolysis process itself.
To maximize the value of bio-oil derivates, first a discrete separation between organic and water based fractions is required and second a better separation of the chemical compounds in the organic fractions is preferred. With our current bio-crude oil, various distillation-condensation experiments in a laboratory set-up have to be performed to obtain different fractions with an optimized composition. The resulting distillation/condensation strategies will be implemented in the pilot plant.

The work will involve:
  • Studying distillation/condensation theory (phase diagrams, separation of azeotrope mixtures etc) to put together an adequate laboratory set-up.
  • Execution of various distillation/condensation experiments in this laboratory set-up with bio-crude oil to optimized fraction compositions.
  • Characterization of the fractions with, e.g. GC-FID and Karl-Fisher titrations and possibly other analysis techniques.
  • Optimization by changing the set-up and the conditions, e.g. columns and temperatures that result in better component separation, especially concerning the water phase.
  • Deriving a distillation/condensation strategy that can be implemented in the PYRENA-PYPO pilot plant.
  • Assisting and collecting data during PYRENA-PYPO pilot plant runs.

How do you want to contribute to tomorrow's world? How big can your impact be? Come and work at TNO and envision it.

What we expect from you

You are an enthusiastic HBO/Bachelor student looking for an internship of at least 5 months. You have a background in chemical engineering or chemistry with a strong interest in chemical engineering and are eager to learn about the utilization of biomass for the production of chemicals and energy. You are pro-active and independent with good communication skills in English. You will be working with a diverse team of scientists/engineering/technicians with a wide variety of expertise to make up for a great learning experience. Practical laboratory experience is necessary for this position.

What you’ll get in return

You want to work on the precursor of your career; a work placement gives you an opportunity to take a good look at your prospective future employer. TNO goes a step further. It’s not just looking that interests us; you and your knowledge are essential to our innovation. That’s why we attach a great deal of value to your personal and professional development. You will, of course, be properly supervised during your work placement and be given the scope for you to get the best out of yourself. Naturally, we provide suitable work placement compensation.

TNO as an employer

At TNO, we innovate for a healthier, safer and more sustainable life. And for a strong economy. Since 1932, we have been making knowledge and technology available for the common good. We find each other in wonder and ingenuity. We are driven to push boundaries. There is all the space and support for your talent and ambition. You work with people who will challenge you: who inspire you and want to learn from you. Our state-of-the-art facilities are there to realize your vision. What you do at TNO matters: impact makes the difference. Because with every innovation you contribute to tomorrow’s world. Read more about TNO as an employer.

The selection process

 After the first CV selection, the application process will be conducted by the concerning department. TNO will provide a suitable internship agreement. If you have any questions about this vacancy, you can contact the contact person mentioned below.

Due to Covid-19 and the consequent uncertainties and restrictions, students who are not residing in the Netherlands may currently not be able to start an internship or graduation project at TNO.

Has this job opening sparked your interest?

Then we’d like to hear from you! Please contact us for more information about the job or the selection process. To apply, please upload your CV and covering letter using the ‘apply now’ button.

Contact: Arjan Langen
Phone number: +31 (0)6 219 75519

Note that applications via email and third party applications are not taken into consideration.


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