The Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group at ETH Zürich is looking for a doctoral student working on the life cycle assessment of the circularity of rigid polyurethane (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.
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 life-cycle assessment (LCA) of the novel recycling value chains to quantify their effect on the environment. Thereby, the environmental impacts are determined from cradle-to-grave based on a circular system and compared to state-of-the-art synthesis and disposal of rigid PUR foam.
You will set up and perform a life cycle assessment and optimization to determine cradle-to-grave environmental impacts from converting PUR rigid foam waste to high-value chemicals and closing the carbon loop. The LCA study will give you a deep understanding of PUR synthesis and recycling. The entire value chain will be covered: from the waste collection and dismantling, pretreatment, transport, to re-use processes, as well as benchmark processes. You will learn how to resolve environmental impacts regionally and integrate the value chain into an LCA model. Developing an overall recycling model will enable identifying environmental hotspots and thus open opportunities for developing and improving PUR rigid foam recycling. You will use these new opportunities to increase your knowledge of the environmental benefits 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 for the duration of your doctoral studies, 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.
We are looking for a proactive and motivated candidate who meets the requirements for a doctoral program at ETH Zurich and has a Master’s or diploma degree in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, process engineering, or energy science & technology from a recognized University. Ideally, you already have experience in life cycle assessment 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.
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 15 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 about the Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) Group, please visit our website, www.epse.ethz.ch. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr. André Bardow, email@example.com, or Dr. Johannes Schilling, firstname.lastname@example.org.