PhD position: Innovative Reactors for Sustainable Chemicals

Updated: 22 days ago

Materials science and technology are our passion. With our cutting-edge research, Empa's around 1,100 employees make essential contributions to the well-being of society for a future worth living. Empa is a research institution of the ETH Domain.

The position will be in the research group Reactors and Processes for Power-to-X, which is part of the Automotive Powertrain Technologies laboratory at Empa. The group focuses on the development of novel reactor and process concepts for synthetic energy carriers production and their integration into a net-zero energy system. The work will contribute to the research project reFuel.ch - Renewable Fuels and Chemicals for Switzerland.

Your tasks


Sustainably produced alcohols and olefins are envisioned core building blocks of a decarbonized chemical industry. The aim of the project is to develop thermocatalytic methods for efficient reduction of CO2 to methanol and olefins over the methanol route. Specifically, you will investigate sorption-enhanced and hybrid processes combining multiple process steps in the catalytic reactor to exploit synergies. The hybrid process directly integrates a separation process with the catalytic reaction. For  this purpose, you will exploit combinations of catalysts with materials providing shape selectivity, physisorption, or chemisorption.

This way, existing catalytic processes can be tuned towards direct synthesis of platform chemicals from CO2 while increasing selectivity and energy efficiency. Process and reaction engineering integrated into the design process helps to match requirements on process, reactor, and catalyst level. A basic understanding of the catalysis is just as important as process engineering.

Consequently, the work will incorporate experimental investigations into catalytic reactors as well as reactor and process modeling. In collaboration with scientists in the fields of materials and catalyst development, you will investigate novel material concepts and optimize them to achieve efficient processes. For this purpose, you will design experiments for characterization of catalysts and catalyst-sorbent/membrane combinations, analyze the products and optimize operation parameters. The experimental results will be used for model-based optimization and process integration.


Your profile

You hold (or finish soon) a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering, Process Engineering, Materials Science, or Chemistry. Experience in reaction engineering, catalysis, measurement techniques, and computational modeling are advantageous. We are looking for a curiosity driven team player with excellent English communication and writing skills.

Our offer

The work will be carried out at Empa Dübendorf in an interdisciplinary environment covering materials development, catalysis, and process engineering. The thesis will be supervised in collaboration with Prof. Dr. André Bardow from the Energy and Process Systems Engineering laboratory at ETH Zürich, where you will be registered as a PhD student. The planned project duration is four years.

We live a culture of inclusion and respect. We welcome all people who are interested in innovative, sustainable and meaningful activities - that's what counts.

DavidHeusser, HR Partner



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