Postdoc in Sensor Development

Updated: 2 months ago
Job Type: Permanent

We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher to work at the interface of chemistry, materials science and chemical engineering to develop and implement gas sensors for agricultural N-mitigation.

The position is available at 80-100% FTE for 2 years, ideally starting early 2024.

Chemiresistive Sensors for Effective Agricultural Nitrogen Management

Nitrogen oxides (NxOy) include air pollutants, powerful greenhouse gases and potent ozone depleting substances. Major anthropogenic sources of NxOy emissions are agricultural soils fertilised with nitrogen. Not only are anthropogenic NxOy emissions a direct environmental problem, they act as markers for N waste in agriculture, and indicate N losses through other pathways such as fertilizer leaching and ammonia volatilization. The Swiss Nutrient Reduction Initiative aims to cut N losses by 20% by 2030, and reducing N waste through technology and data-driven approaches in smart agriculture will be key to achieving this goal.

The primary focus of the project will be to develop a low-cost sensor that can be installed in the soil subsurface for continuous monitoring of NxOy concentrations at different depths. The sensor will be based on “chemiresistor” technology, whereby the presence of the gas of interest – NxOy – induces a change in electrical resistance through a chemical interaction that can be directly measured.

Within the project, sensing composites will be synthesized and implemented into chemiresistor devices. A long-term goal of the project will be to install arrays of sensors on an experimental agricultural field and measure NxOyconcentrations over a period of 6 months. We will investigate different modelling approaches to relate the measured gas concentrations in the soil to surface and field-scale NxOy emissions. We foresee a wide range of applications for the project, such as direct NxOy monitoring to reduce N waste in Swiss agricultural settings, as well as monitoring of emissions in remote regions where power and accessibility are not suitable for current scientific emission measurement technologies.

Research institutes involved

The project is led by Prof. Dr. Máté Bezdek (Functional Coordination Chemistry, D-CHAB), Dr. Eliza Harris (Swiss Data Science Centre, D-INFK) and Prof. Dr. Nina Buchmann (Grassland Sciences Research Group, D-USYS).

The Functional Coordination Chemistry Research Group applies the tools and approaches of synthetic organometallic chemistry to develop functional molecules and materials. A long-standing interest of the group is to develop new sensing mechanisms based on molecular principles and to integrate these into electronic sensing devices for the detection to agriculturally-relevant pollutants.

The Swiss Data Science Center  is a joint venture between EPFL and ETH Zurich. Its mission is to accelerate the adoption of data science and machine learning techniques within the ETH Domain academic disciplines, the Swiss academic community at large, and the industrial sector. In particular, it addresses the gap between those who create data, those who develop data analytics and systems, and those who could potentially extract value from it.

 The Grassland Sciences Research Group is a multidisciplinary group focusing on the process- and system-oriented understanding of plant and ecosystem physiology, functional plant diversity, and biogeochemistry in agroecosystems and forests, in particular the biosphere-atmosphere greenhouse gas exchange, in response to management and environmental drivers, across spatial and temporal scales. The group uses classical ecological methods and further develops innovative tools, such as stable isotope applications and micrometeorological measurements of trace gases, in observational and experimental studies.

  • You will be responsible for development of the sensor prototype, including design and engineering of the prototype based on the sensing technology developed in the Bezdek lab
  • You will develop data processing software for the sensor system, with support from the SDSC
  • You will be responsible for initial testing and field deployment of the sensor system, with support from the Grassland Sciences Group, as well as handling and modeling of field data
  • You will participate in meetings, seminars and other activities related to the research

You must hold a PhD in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Materials Science, or a related discipline. Experience in sensor device fabrication and testing is an advantage, and an interest in programming and data science is highly desirable. Ideally, you have experience in conducting interdisciplinary work in system engineering for environmental sciences, or you have a strong interest in developing this profile.

Regardless of scientific background, we are seeking highly motivated candidates to work in a challenging, cutting-edge research field, to work independently and to develop their own ideas, and to work collaboratively as part of an interdisciplinary team. Fluency in English (written and spoken) and strong communication skills, in particular experience in presentation and publication of research results at conferences and in peer-reviewed journals, are required.

  • A stimulating, collaborative, cross-disciplinary project at a world-class research institution;
  • Flexible work arrangements, including remote working, flexible time, condensed week, and the opportunity to work part-time;
  • Exciting challenges, varied projects, and plenty of room to learn and grow;
  • An opportunity to follow your passion and use your skills to make an impact on research communities and society;
  • A possibility to spark your creativity by experimenting and learning new technologies

In line with

our values

, 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

Equal Opportunities and Diversity website

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:

  • Cover letter describing your interest, motivation and relevant experience (max. 2 pages)
  • CV (including a full publication list)
  • Copies of diploma/s and relevant certificates
  • Names and contact details of three professional references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. The initial application deadline is January 15, 2024, but a review of applications will continue until the position is filled.

Questions regarding the position should be directed via email to [email protected] and [email protected].

For recruitment services the GTC of ETH Zurich apply.

About ETH Zürich

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.

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