Postdoc position: Conceptual process design of polyurethane recycling

Updated: 3 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 28 Aug 2021

Postdoc position: Conceptual process design of polyurethane recycling

The Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group at ETH Zürich is looking for a postdoc working on the conceptual process design of polyurethane (PUR) recycling for the circularity of rigid PUR foams. The position is funded by a European project, which connects key actors in Europe, and focuses on developing novel recycling routes for PUR foams.

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

65 million tons of plastic were produced in Europe in 2018, and the production volume is increasing annually. One important grow area is high-performance polymers such as rigid polyurethane (PUR) foams used as insulation material for refrigeration and thermal insulation in the construction industry. Although rigid polyurethane foam has a long service life from several years to decades, PUR waste is also increasing annually. Thus, this project aims to develop a sustainable solution for the circularity of rigid polyurethane foams. The goal is to introduce end-of-life rigid foam as a new resource in an ecologically-, economically-, and climate-neutral way.

For this purpose, resource-efficient recycling technologies are investigated and developed to eliminate waste and gain alternative feedstock for the process industry, thus saving fossil resources. The project builds a novel value chain for chemical recycling, including waste collection, sorting, and processing, chemical recycling, and the production of new waste-based materials. An essential task in this project is the conceptual process design and thermo-economic analysis of the novel chemical recycling routes. The task aims to develop a flexible and economically efficient process concept for chemical PUR recycling.

Job description

You will perform a conceptual process design and thermo-economic analysis of the chemical recycling of PUR to identify promising recycling routes. For this purpose, you will learn how to use and develop tools for advanced flowsheet synthesis and systematic computer-aided molecular and process design (CAMPD). From the analysis, you will understand in detail the chemical recycling of polyurethane foams and potential separation technologies. You will combine predictive thermodynamic models and reduced-order process modeling with data-driven approaches and validate the results by experimental data. Based on the conceptual process design, you will identify the economically most efficient recycling processes and thus improve PUR rigid foam recycling. Based on these findings, you will improve your knowledge of the conceptual process design of PUR recycling. Collaboration with partners from industry and academia will be a crucial success factor of the work.

We offer you a full-time position, starting upon agreement with the earliest starting of 1 October 2021. 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 partof 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 postdoc at ETH Zurich and has a university degree with a doctorate in chemical or process engineering from a recognized University. You should have experience in conceptual process design for processes from chemical engineering. Expertise in flowsheeting software is highly appreciated. You are highly motivated to learn and apply modern programming, 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.


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

  • Curriculum Vitae, max. 2 pages
  • Motivational Letter, max. 2 pages
  • Transcript of records
  • Contact details of 2 referees

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal before 30 August 2021. We will not consider applications sent via email or postal services. We will get in touch with you after 2-3 weeks following the submission deadline.

For further information about the Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group, please visit our website, . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr. André Bardow, , or Dr. Johannes Schilling, .

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.

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