PhD candidate for developing new concepts for automatically detecting de-energized overhead lines

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Laboratory for High Power Electronic Systems (HPE) at the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering performs international leading research on power electronic converter systems required for example in future energy distribution systems for integrating renewable energy sources or in traction applications/electric mobility. A further research focus is on solid state pulse modulators for medical applications (computer tomography/cancer treatment) and accelerators (CERN). For a new research project on protection systems for electrical locomotives/trucks powered via an overhead line, we are recruiting a: PhD candidate for developing new concepts for automatically detecting de-energised overhead lines

Job description

We are looking for outstanding, highly motivated people interested in pursuing PhD research on new concepts for automatically detecting if overhead lines for electric locomotives or trucks are energised. In railway grids with a high level of electrification for reducing CO2 emission, there are always also areas without electrification, e.g. for shunting/loading. For operating locomotives in both areas, the pantograph connecting the locomotive to the overhead line must be operated properly at transition points between energised and de-energised areas to avoid costly damage to the pantograph/overhead line and the related outages of locomotives.

With your PhD project, you should develop an automatic detection system of the transition points between energised/de-energised overhead lines to avoid damaging of the pantograph/overhead line. Such detection systems and based on it an automatic operation of the pantograph are mandatory for future automatic driving systems of locomotives. So far, no concepts for such detection systems have been investigated, thus the project will open a new research area.

The system for automatically detecting the transition points should be based on the measurement of the E-field in front of the locomotive. As an energised overhead line generates a high E-field between the overhead line and the rail and a de-energised overhead line does not, detecting the end of the electrification is based on the measurement of a changing/decreasing E- field in front of the locomotive. Since the pantograph operation is relatively slow and the detection must happen while the locomotive is driving, the transition point must be detected some tens of meters in front of the locomotive. Therefore, the E-field changes, which must be detected, are relatively small, which makes a failsafe detection of a transition point challenging.

In our lab, you can expect a challenging and scientifically highly exciting full-time position in a dynamic, international team at one of the worldwide leading technical universities. Furthermore, we strongly support participation at international conferences and offer a competitive salary, excellent benefits as well as outstanding research and laboratory facilities for your experiments. In the project with a duration of 3 years, you will also cooperate with industry partners – especially for “real-live” tests of the detection system.

Your profile

You have a diploma/M.Sc. degree in electrical engineering and/or physics with excellent grades, fundamental knowledge of power electronic converter systems, good communication skills, fluency in English and the willingness to fully commit yourself as part of an international team. In addition, you should be interested in the detailed investigation and modelling of electric fields and the design of dynamic sensor systems.

Your workplace

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

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:

  • comprehensive CV
  • your B.Sc. and M.Sc. transcripts
  • electronic copies of the B.Sc/M.Sc. thesis and/or your publications (if available)
  • names/addresses of references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about Laboratory for High Power Electronic Systems (HPE) can be found on our website. For questions about the position, please contact Prof. Dr Jürgen Biela, Tel +41 44 632 69 22 or e-mail jbiela@ethz.ch (no applications).

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.