Elena M. Seftel obtained her PhD in the field of Material Science in 2010. She is a researcher at VITO, unit Sustainable Materials Management within the Coating and Shaping Technologies (CAST) team. Her main research interests are in the development of inorganic sorbent materials for metal recovery from complex mixtures, such as in the context of the TARANTULA project. (Leuven, 05/10/2021)


What are you working on?

Within the TARANTULA project I am involved in the design of W, Ta and Nb recovery process which involve on one side metal leaching (process developed by my colleagues Jeroen Spooren and Stef Koelewijn) and metal recovery for which I design 3D printed inorganic sorbents. This is particular interesting since for this, I am working at multiple scales: nanometer scale by tuning material composition, micrometer scale by printing them into 3D structures and millimeter/centimeter scale by integrating the 3D printed sorbents in continuous reactor setup. This multi-scale development approach allows me to gain better understanding and develop knowledge in material design for improved overall process performance.

What attracts you in the research project you are working on?

I am very excited that I can perform research in various type of projects, such as European funded (which is the case of TARANTULA) but also industrial funded projects, and this allows me to broaden my vision and expertise towards designing materials for more efficient and sustainable processes.

Where do you work? What do you like about your organization or the city you live in?

I work at VITO which is the Flemish Institute for Technological Research which is located in Mol (Antwerp region) Belgium. I joined VITO during my postdoc research stage, which was a moment in my life where I was wondering whether I should continue performing fundamental research at the University or move towards the chemical industry and pursue an industrial (applied) research career. Well, joining VITO was the perfect fit since here I found the direct link between fundamental and applied research, and I can perform research in close collaboration with both Universities as well industrial partners.

How do you recharge?











First of all: traveling together with my family (daughter and husband). We love going around and exploring new places. Antwerp is a perfectly located place to start travel, also with good flight connections with our home country, beautiful Romania. So, our traveling holidays combine visiting new countries as well as visiting Romania and my family there. It is said that the present situation makes traveling quite difficult sometimes. But, on the other hand, this also made me reactivate one of my long forgotten ‘energy provider’ – plants and gardening. So, I am now recharging in my beautiful garden and greenhouse, in which I love growing herbs and some vegetables and show my daughter the true flavor of nature.


Dr. Elena Seftel was born and raised in Bacau, Romania. She moved to Iasi where she studied chemistry and obtained the bachelor degree (2004) in Chemistry and afterwards the master degree (2006) in Materials Science. During the master stage, she has performed research in material and processes design, which lead her to follow the PhD in materials science. In 2008 she received the Inventica Medal and Excellence Diploma at the International Salon of Research, Inventions and Technological Transfer and later, in 2010 she received her PhD in 2010 from the “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania with the distinction Magna Cum Laude in Materials. She is now researcher at VITO in the Coating and Shaping Technologies (CAST) team, where she is applying her expertise in synthesis and materials development in various projects, designing both sorbents and catalysts for research and commercial applications.