Geothermal energy is a renewable power source that can reduce global carbon emissions to mitigate climate change. MIT estimated that energy, amounting to 2000 times the current annual global energy use, is accessible within Earth’s crust. However, accessing this geothermal energy resource is currently cost-prohibitive in all but a few locations worldwide, as drilling costs, even into non-crystalline (i.e. soft) rocks, currently make up the majority of geothermal power plant capital costs. Thus, new drilling technologies, which reduce drilling costs, decrease the overall cost and increase the likelihood of accessing these deep geothermal resources. One such technology, Plasma-Pulse Geo Drilling (PPGD) or Electro-Pulse Boring (EPB), is a contactless drilling method, being developed to supplant traditional (rotary) drilling. Therefore, the Geothermal Energy and Geofluids (GEG) Group in the Institute of Geophysics at the Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, invites applications for a
PhD position in the development, experimental testing, and numerical modeling of Plasma-Pulse Geo-Drilling (PPGD)
The objective of the project is to help a team of researchers at ETH Zurich and the company SwissGeoPower (SGP) develop PPGD from the existing bench-scale prototype to full commercialization, enabling drill depths of 300 m, and to provide (numerical) prognoses about the feasibility of employing PPGD at drill depths greater than 300 m. The experimental part of the project will consist of three phases over the first two years: 1) PPGD drill tests in a tri-axial press in the laboratory, 2) laboratory testing of pilot equipment for the field, and 3) off-campus field testing to 300 m PPGD depths. During each of these experimental phases, collected test data will validate numerical models. The third year is reserved for numerical modeling, based on the results obtained during the first two years, to provide SGP with prognoses regarding the feasibility of developing PPGD for drill depths much larger than 300m.
A master’s degree in Geosciences, Engineering, Physics, Geo-Drilling, or a related field is essential. The ideal candidate has practical industry experience in field rotary drilling operations and/or contactless drilling methods. Experience with directional drilling and expandable casing is beneficial, as these technologies will also be investigated in the context of PPGD. Hands-on experience with experimental testing, process/equipment engineering, and/or high-voltage applications is desirable. Additionally, knowledge in programming or application of numerical simulators (particularly regarding MOOSE but also engineering-specific simulators) is a strong plus. The candidate should possess excellent analytical and critical thinking skills, be proficient in English, and have excellent writing and presentation skills. The candidate needs to function well both as a member of an interdisciplinary team and individually, creatively developing new concepts and performing tasks reliably on a tight schedule without requiring permanent supervision. The maximum duration of the position is three years, pending a successful completion of the Research Plan Defense after one year. Benefits, work hours, salary, insurance, and pension are subject to ETH Zürich standards.
We look forward to receiving your application online, including a CV, motivation letter, certificates, and transcripts until March 5, 2018. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For questions regarding the project, please contact Dr. Ben Adams at benjamin.adams[at]