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PhD position: Experimentally-based modelling of Power-to-Heat-to-Storage Processes 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 research of the Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group at ETH Zurich focuses on sustainability in energy and chemical process systems. Headed by Prof. Dr. André Bardow, we develop methods to advance sustainable energy and chemical process systems from the molecular to the systems scale.

In our work, we combine computer-aided molecular and process design to optimize molecules and processes simultaneously. To holistically evaluate the environmental impacts of chemicals and energy systems, we develop predictive methods for Life Cycle Assessment. Our technological focus currently lies in Power-to-X & sector coupling, sustainable carbon feedstock, and carbon capture, utilization & storage.

Project background

The worldwide effort of reducing CO2-emissions moves energy generation from burning fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, such as wind power, photovoltaics, or hydropower. Since most of these renewable energy sources generate electricity, not heat, Power-to-Heat processes gain importance to enable low-carbon heating. At the same time, Power-to-Heat processes enable thermal energy storage as an option to compensate for the fluctuations in the energy supply of renewable sources. 

Highly efficient Power-to-Heat-to-Storage processes are already well established for heat below 100°C, e.g., in residential heating using vapour-compression heat pumps combined with hot water storage. For process heat (>100 °C), various technologies are currently discussed for both generation and storage. However, high-temperature Power-to-Heat-to-Storage processes have a low Technological-Readiness-Level (TRL) today, rendering the assessment of their future potential challenging.

The sound basis for developing, improving, and assessing Power-to-Heat-to-Storage processes are reliable simulation models with a high level of detail. The models have to cover physical or thermodynamic phenomena as well as economics and environmental Life Cycle Assessment. Today, the established thermodynamic models still have critical gaps in the modelling of components and the occurring phenomena. Either the physics of these processes is not yet well understood, or the processes are too complex for description by engineering models with acceptable effort.

The project aims to close these gaps by combining experimental investigation and modern simulation techniques, combining first-principles modelling with data-mining and neural networks.

Job description

You will design, set up, and perform experiments for Power-to-Heat-to-Storage technologies. The experiments will give you a deep physical understanding of these relevant components and will be the basis for the development of suitable simulation models. The integration of your models into established overall process models will open new opportunities for developing, improving, and assessing Power-to-Heat-to-Storage technologies. You will use these new opportunities to increase the knowledge and the technological readiness level of these technologies.

We offer you a full-time position for the duration of your doctoral studies, starting upon agreement with the earliest starting date of November 1, 2020. You will work in an interdisciplinary team of researchers with in-depth experience in process design, energy system optimization, and life cycle assessment. As an integral part of your work, you will publish your results in peer-reviewed journals and will present them at international conferences.

Your profile

You meet the requirements for a doctoral program at ETH Zurich and have a Master's or diploma degree in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, process engineering or energy science & technology. You already have experience in working experimentally, preferably also in setting up experiments, and you are highly motivated to learn and apply modern simulation techniques. The ability to work independently and excellent communication skills in English complete your profile.

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.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae, max. 2 pages
  • Motivational Letter, max. 2 pages (please also describe your experimental experience)
  • Transcript of records
  • Contact details of 2 referees

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal before September 30, 2020. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. We will get in touch with you after 2-3 weeks following the submission deadline.

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