PhD position: Thermodynamic property for refrigerant mixtures for Power-to-Heat processes

Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: Permanent

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100%, Zurich, fixed-term


The Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group at ETH Zürich is looking for a doctoral student working on the integrated design of process and refrigerant for industrial high-temperature heat pumps. The position connects basic research with applied engineering, and focuses on developing more flexible and efficient high-temperature heat pumps. 

The research of the EPSE group at ETH Zürich, headed by Prof. Dr. André Bardow, focuses on sustainability in energy and chemical process systems. 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

High-temperature heat pumps are a key technology to decarbonize industrial heat generation. Replacing current fossil-based heating with industrial heat pumps can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% in the short term and offers to reach carbon neutrality in the long term by using green electricity. However, heat pumps have penetrated industry slowly so far. In particular, maximum temperature are currently limited to about 150 °C, investment costs are higher, and efficiencies only moderate, hampering the adoption of heat pumps in industry. Since existing industrial heat pumps evolved mainly from household applications, the potential for customization to industrial applications has not been exploited yet.

This project aims to overcome the challenges of industrial heat pumps by introducing refrigerants and process designs with temperature glide, e.g., realized by refrigerant mixtures. Heat pumps with temperature glide can optimally meet the specific requirements of industrial applications, significantly increasing flexibility and efficiency. To tailor high-efficient high-temperature heat pumps to industrial applications, we will combine modeling and experiments. Refrigerants will be optimized for industrial applications by an integrated refrigerant and process design framework. An experimental high-temperature test stand and a heat pump breadboard system will be developed to enable validation and demonstration. The modeling is mainly assigned to our group while our project partner will conduct the experimental research. Both groups will work in close collaboration to establish high-temperature heat pumps for industry.


Job description

As part of the project team, you will develop thermodynamic models for property prediction of zeotropic and azeotropic refrigerant mixtures. The models will cover standard thermodynamic properties, such as vapor-liquid-equilibrium, caloric and transport properties, as well as non-conventional properties, such as oil solubility and flammability. Starting from state-of-the-art approaches, you will develop novel models, e.g., based on data-driven methods. The developed models will be an essential part of the framework to optimize refrigerant mixtures and high-temperature heat pump processes. You will work in close collaboration with a further PhD student who will focus on the implementation of the design framework. Later in the project, you will apply your knowledge in mixture behavior to develop practical methods for employing refrigerant mixtures in industry. For this part of the project, you will collaborate with our project partner to evaluate and validate your methods experimentally. During your PhD, you will get a deep understanding of modeling thermodynamic properties, computer-aided molecular design, and industrial high-temperature heat pumps.  

We offer you a full-time position for the duration of your doctoral studies, starting upon agreement with the earliest starting of  01 April 2022. 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 present them at international conferences.


Your profile

We are looking for a proactive and motivated candidate who meets the requirements for a doctoral program at ETH Zurich and has an excellent Master's or diploma degree in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, process engineering, physical chemistry, or energy science & technology from a recognized University. You have a strong background in thermodynamics and ideally already experience in property prediction. You have strong expertise in modeling and programming. You are highly motivated to learn and apply modern simulation and optimization techniques and work in a dynamic environment with other doctoral students and postdocs. The ability to work independently and excellent communication skills in English (both written and spoken) 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.

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