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PhD candidate for developing new concepts for automatically detecting de-energized overhead lines in Zürich

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


100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Laboratory for High Power Electronic Systems (HPE) at the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering performs internationally leading research on power electronic converter systems required for example in future energy distribution systems for integrating renewable energy sources or in traction applications/electric mobility. Further research focuses on solid-state pulse modulators for medical applications (computer tomography/cancer treatment) and accelerators (CERN). For a new research project on protection systems for electrical locomotives/trucks powered via an overhead line, we are recruiting a: PhD candidate for developing new concepts for automatically detecting de-energized overhead lines

Job description

We are looking for outstanding, highly motivated people interested in pursuing PhD research on new concepts for automatically detecting if overhead lines for electric locomotives or trucks are energized. In railway grids with a high level of electrification for reducing CO2 emission, there are always also areas without electrification, e.g. for shunting/loading. For operating locomotives in both areas, the pantograph connecting the locomotive to the overhead line must be operated properly at transition points between energized and de-energized areas to avoid costly damage to the pantograph/overhead line and the related outages of locomotives.

With your PhD project, you should develop an automatic detection system of the transition points between energized/de-energized overhead lines to avoid damaging the pantograph/overhead line. Such detection systems and based on it an automatic operation of the pantograph are mandatory for future automatic driving systems of locomotives. So far, no concepts for such detection systems have been investigated, thus the project will open a new research area.

The system for automatically detecting the transition points should be based on the measurement of the E-field in front of the locomotive. As an energized overhead line generates a high E-field between the overhead line and the rail and a de-energized overhead line does not, detecting the end of the electrification is based on the measurement of a changing/decreasing E- field in front of the locomotive. Since the pantograph operation is relatively slow and the detection must happen while the locomotive is driving, the transition point must be detected some tens of meters in front of the locomotive. Therefore, the E-field changes, which must be detected, are relatively small, which makes a failsafe detection of a transition point challenging.

In our lab, you can expect a challenging and scientifically highly exciting full-time position in a dynamic, international team at one of the worldwide leading technical universities.

Your profile

You have a diploma/MSc degree in electrical engineering and/or physics with excellent grades, fundamental knowledge of power electronic converter systems, good communication skills, fluency in English and the willingness to fully commit yourself as part of an international team. In addition, you should be interested in the detailed investigation and modelling of electric fields and the design of dynamic sensor systems.

Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits. Furthermore, we strongly support participation at international conferences and offer a competitive salary, excellent benefits as well as outstanding research and laboratory facilities for your experiments. In the project with a duration of 3 years, you will also cooperate with industry partners – especially for “real-live” tests of the detection system.

We value diversity
In line with , ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

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

  • Comprehensive CV
  • Your BSc and MSc transcripts
  • Electronic copies of the B.Sc/M.Sc. thesis and/or your publications (if available)
  • Names/addresses of references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further background information about the HPE lab and our publications on .

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