PhD in efficient computer aided design of horticultural transport systems (Ref. BAP-2016-619)


PhD in efficient computer aided design of horticultural transport systems (Ref. BAP-2016-619)

Deadline: January 31, 2017


In the application domain of postharvest systems, the division MeBioS of the Biosystems department is looking for a PhD candidate to develop and optimize CFD approaches for design of transport of horticultural products.

PhD in efficient computer aided design of horticultural transport systems

The MeBioS Postharvest Group has been founded by Prof. Bart Nicolaï in 2000 in an attempt to deliver fundamental postharvest science to support the Flanders Centre of Postharvest Technology, a public-private partnership between the KU Leuven and the Association of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives that was established in 1997. We thrive to achieve excellence in our research and add value to our stakeholders in Flanders and worldwide.

Our research aims at increasing knowledge about postharvest changes of horticultural products, developing new postharvest storage and supply chain management systems, and designing new devices to measure and monitor postharvest quality changes of fruit and vegetables. To this end we are developing virtual fruit and vegetables –mathematical models that describes and predicts the behavior of the product accurately down to the nanometer scale and includes precise models for biochemical pathways and their intricate regulation.

If you are keen to get a PhD and are prepared to start on an exciting postharvest research journey, we encourag eyou to apply for this PhD student position.


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Sustainable food supply demands new and optimized processes with minimal use of natural resources, energy and environmental impact and waste. Losses of fruit and vegetables are one of the most striking examples of food waste worldwide. These are a consequence of suboptimal control of storage and transport conditions and an improper cold chain. New solutions need to be developed that improve temperature and quality management of produce during transport.


Over the last decade, we have excelled in delivering computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models as a prime computer aided design tool for designing and optimizing horticultural applications involving airflow, heat and mass transfer combined to physiology and product quality. Linking the bioproduct and process phenomena in an accurate and efficient way is a challenge due to the large computational requirements across different scales. Porous media models have typically been used for such large spatial scale applications, using parameterized equations to close the lower scale dynamics. Simulations are then performed at the smaller scale on a resolved geometry to identify the closure parameters by means of multiscale modeling approaches. Actual design optimization problems are today resolved in a relatively tedious framework of manual iterations with models operating at the different scales.


To achieve significantly reduced CFD design cycles, this PhD aims to provide a CFD modeling approach that simplifies and speeds up the design and optimization cycles of novel horticultural transport systems. First, CFD modules will be developed for the different components (packages, cooling units, air distribution systems) in transport units such as climate controlled containers. A design framework will be developed that will allow to build CFD simulation models of containers efficiently by combining the modules. Second, an optimization application will be constructed to allow more effective parameter sensitivity studies to be conducted. The software framework will be tested  and verified in dedicated practical applications with relevant stakeholders.
The main goal of this PhD project is to train you into a complete scientist who is ready for future challenges. This means that you will be conducting cutting-edge research under the close supervision of Prof Bart Nicolai and Dr. Pieter Verboven, collaborate with your peers(in-and outside the lab) and participate in the daily activities of the research lab. You will also be actively encouraged to guide thesis students,participate at national and international conferences and disseminate your research results in scientific publications. You will also be strongly encouraged to follow extra-curricular courses provided by the Arenberg Doctoral School in support of your broader (non-)academic training.


The lab is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate, that has a strong interest in horticultural engineering, modelling and programming. You are a team-player,you have a critical mind, you are willing to learn new techniques and you can work accurately. You are required to have a Master degree (or equivalent) in Bioscience Engineering, Engineering or Physics. You are willing and eligible to apply for PhD-grants (FWO).


The lab offers you a full-time position to complete a PhD, with intermediate progress evaluations (4 years in total). The lab will support you in all aspects in order to successfully obtain a PhD degree and a proper scientific training. You will have an advanced training in porous media, computational fluid dynamics and microfluidics. You will have opportunities to participate in national and international meetings, and establish your own network. You will have possibilities to gain experience in transferal skills.


For more information please contact

Mr. Pieter Verboven, tel.: +32 16 32 14 53, mail: or

Prof. dr. ir. Bart Nicolai, tel.: +32 16 32 23 75, mail:

You can apply for this job via the online application tool


Downloads : pdf

Kunlere Idowu

Kunlere is an environment and sustainable development strategist with years of active experience in environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement. You may follow him on Twitter via @kunlere_idowu


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