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PhD student, on Computational Modelling of
Sparks to model the multiscale dynamics of
sparks and their precursors.


Function types
Scientific fields
Job number
Science Park 123, Amsterdam
Research, Development, Innovation, PhD positions
Natural Sciences, Engineering
40.0 hours per week
€ 2211 - € 2834
University Graduate
Job description

Sparks and lightning appear when high voltages act on air or other gases, in nature and in technology. The group has developed leading two- and three-dimensional time-dependent models for the earliest stages of electric breakdown that are dominated by space charge effects, in close collaboration with lightning research, plasma physics and high voltage engineering. But can these models be applied as well for much higher voltages than in previous calculations? Or will electrons be accelerated into the run-away regime and change the character of the discharge? How do thermal expansion and chemical excitations stabilize the discharge channel on longer times? Which structures develop after nano-, micro- or milliseconds, and can we model them, possibly after some steps of systematic model reduction? Do we understand the basic mechanisms sufficiently to model discharges in gases different from air? We aim at developing computational models for these mechanisms on different scales of space, time and energy, and to make them available to an international community of researchers across disciplines.

The PhD position is part of a larger project: the CWI group will also hire a postdoc for other aspects of spark model development, and the departments of applied physics and of electrical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) will hire two PhD students who will execute challenging and well equipped experiments as a counterpart to our models. Own initiatives and independent collaborations of the PhD students and the postdoc within the project are encouraged. The project budget is rich due to the need to develop new environmentally friendly switches for high voltage electricity grids, and it is funded for the larger part by the Dutch Technology Foundation STW, and for the smaller part by ABB Corporate Research, Switzerland. Next to fundamental issues of discharge experiments and modeling, it will therefore focus specifically on discharges in high pressure CO2 for use in High Voltage switches --- while the link to lightning on Venus in an atmosphere of high pressure CO2 is laid as well.

At the Multiscale Dynamics group at CWI, you will be part of a team developing physical and computational models for electrical discharges in nature and technology, and you will interact with colleagues who are developing computational codes and models for space weather or for aerodynamics near wind turbines. The general challenges within the whole discharge team lie in identifying relevant physical and chemical mechanisms, in implementing them into advanced computational codes, in taking systematic steps of model reduction to address larger scales in space, time and energy, and to evaluate the models and compare them with experiments and observations.


Beyond collaboration with your project partners at CWI and TU/e, you will interact with the international network of applied plasma and high voltage technology through schools and conferences and with the multinational project partner ABB whose researchers will participate in the quest for physical understanding. You will also have the opportunity to participate in the summer and winter schools of a European Marie-Curie-network on "Science and Innovation with Thunderstorms (SAINT)" starting in 2017 and to collaborate with the 15 PhD students of this network on fundamental physical and computational questions in electric discharges; two of these students will be hired next year by the CWI group and one by TU/e.


We are looking for a highly motivated student with strong interest in computational science and physical modeling.

The PhD candidate is required to have a Master degree in (applied) mathematics, (applied) physics, or a related field. Ideally, (s)he has a good command of computational and numerical science and a good understanding of the basic physical mechanisms relevant for electric discharges. But talent and work discipline might compensate for a partial lack of background knowledge. Candidates are expected to have a very good command of English, and good academic writing and presentation skills.

Conditions of employment

We offer a fulltime employment as a PhD student for 4 years. The appointment is initially for 18 months, and, if the chance of completing a PhD thesis is evaluated positively, it will be extended by 30 months.

The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres ("CAO-onderzoeksinstellingen").

The gross monthly salary on a full time basis is €2,211 during the first year and increases to €2,834 over the four-year period. Employees are also entitled to a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.33%. CWI offers attractive working conditions, including flexible scheduling and help with housing for expat employees.

Please visit our website for more information about our terms of employment: www.cwi.nl/terms-of-employment.


Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) is the Dutch national research institute for mathematics and computer science and linked to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The mission of CWI is to conduct pioneering research in mathematics and computer science, generating new knowledge in these fields and conveying it to trade, industry, and society at large.

CWI is an internationally oriented institute, with 160 scientists from approximately 27 countries. The facilities are first-rate and include excellent IT support, career planning, training, and courses.

CWI is located at Science Park Amsterdam that is presently developing into a major location of research in the natural sciences in The Netherlands, housing the sciences of the University of Amsterdam and of the Vrije Universiteit as well as several other national research institutes next to CWI.


Multiscale Dynamics group

For more information about CWI‘s Multiscale Dynamics group, please check:

Additional information

For residents outside the EER-area, a Toefl English language test might be required.

For more information about the vacancy, please contact prof. Ute Ebert, email Ute.Ebert@cwi.nl.

For more information about CWI, please visit www.cwi.nl or watch our video "A Fundamental Difference" about working at CWI.


Erschienen auf academics.de am 29.08.2016
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