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PhD Position (fully funded) in ice nucleation of airplane turbine soot particles within the framework of the European project ACACIA in Zürich

Studierende finden an der ETH Zürich ein Umfeld, das eigenständiges Denken fördert, Forschende ein Klima, das zu Spitzenleistungen inspiriert.


100%, Zurich, temporary

The Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science (IAC) at the Department of Environmental System Sciences at ETH Zurich is one of the world leading venue for research in atmospheric sciences. The institute offers a comprehensive infrastructure, IT and technical support pertaining to research at all levels. 

Project background

The atmospheric physics group at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at ETH Zurich (IAC-ETH) invites applications for a 3 year PhD position integrated into a . The project involves a collaboration with the  ( and ) who will provide access to a unique sampling and measurement  at the aircraft engine testing facility at SR Technics, Zurich airport. The system will be used to sample and measure physical and chemical properties as well as the cloud forming potential of exhaust soot particles. The core activity in this project will require the PhD candidate to partake in measurement campaigns at SR Technics and co-ordinate measurement times during the initial 1.5 – 2 years of the PhD. 

The overall goal of this project is to understand how cloud processing affects the fate of aircraft turbine soot particles in the upper troposphere with respect to cirrus cloud or contrail formation. The PhD project will involve researching and developing novel methods to quantify the morphology of soot particles to understand the role of physical properties for ice nucleation in the temperature regime below 233 K. Furthermore, understanding how soot aggregate size and primary particle size, control or contribute to the relevant ice nucleation mechanism will be important. In this context, plume modelling to understand the probability and occurrence of large soot aggregates in the upper troposphere from aggregation and coagulation of ice crystals and resulting soot residuals will be considered. 

The cloud processing will be simulated using a set-up of two cloud chambers in series separated by an aerosol transition device whose humidity and temperature can be controlled to mimic cloud free conditions. The first chamber is used to expose soot particles - sampled directly at the turbine facility at Zurich Airport - to contrail conditions and the second chamber is used to test the same particles for their ice cloud forming ability, after being exposed to cloud-free conditions in the transition device. The instruments to be used are already available and have been used successfully in a similar set up before.  

Techniques that will be important and involved are: operation of flow systems, continuous flow cloud chambers, aerosol sizing and counting instruments and optical particle counting systems. Furthermore to characterise the soot particles, we can make use of spectroscopy, dynamic vapour sorption, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image analysis, near-edge x-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS), spectroscopy, all techniques available here at ETH through our existing collaborations. In the  we have a variety of ice nucleating particle counters, aerosol instruments, mass spectrometers, and optical detection devices for aerosols and cloud hydrometeors. 

Job description
  • Taking lectures on relevant topics such as cloud microphysics, data analysis and statistical methods, atmopsheric physics and chemistry, and aerosols lectures
  • Experimental work in laboratories and potential field campaigns or laboratory measurement campaigns
  • Doc Jobs (Teaching Assistant and institute duties for PhD students) 
  • Analysis of experimental data using appropriate coding or software (Python, MATLAB, Origin), interpretation of research results, and publishing in peer reviewed journals
  • Creative direction of research in senior PhD year 
Your profile

The successful candidate in addition to holding a MSc (or equivalent) in chemistry, physics, engineering, atmospheric/environmental sciences, or a related field should be interested in aerosol experimental and field observations. Knowledge of oral and written English is expected. Data analysis in Igor, MATLAB, Python or similar software is highly desired, and some knowledge of LabVIEW would be an asset, but not necessary. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

Only applications through the online portal will be considered. Find here further information about the , and . Questions regarding the position should be directed to via email zamin.kanji@env.ethz.ch (no applications).

I look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents: Statement of interest/cover letter (no more than 1.5 pages) and CV. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

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