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PhD position in experimental Gravitational Wave research at University of Twente/Nikhef, The Netherlands

Jun 19, 2020

PhD position in experimental Gravitational Wave research
“Vibration-free cryogenic cooling for gravitational wave observatories”
Deadline for application: July 15th 2020.

The position
Nikhef has a vacancy for a PhD position at the University of Twente as part of a challenging European project that aims to design and realize a third-generation Gravitational Wave (GW) observatory. Due to extreme phenomena in space, such as the merging of two black holes, a gravitational wave spreads over space much like ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed in. These waves travel at the speed of light  and squeeze and stretch anything in their path as they pass by. These waves were predicted more than 100 years ago by Albert Einstein and were first detected only in 2015 using an interferometer-based detector in which the minute change of the distance travelled by a laser beam could be detected. In the European Einstein Telescope (ET) project the challenge is to realize a GW observatory that has an unprecedented resolution. It should be able to detect a relative change in distance of only 1022 m. This is equivalent to measuring 0.015 nm in the distance of Earth to Sun! One of the measures to realize this extreme resolution is to cool the mirrors in the interferometer to an extremely low temperature approaching the absolute zero. This is required to limit the noise caused by thermal activity in the coating of the mirrors. And obviously, this cryogenic cooling has to be free of vibrations. This is where your challenge is.

Your role:
The PhD position is focused on cryogenic coolers for mirrors in the ET observatory. Here, continuous vibration-free cooling is required. The concept is to use sorption-based compressors that have been developed by the University of Twente. These compressors are thermally driven, have no mechanically moving parts and are therefore vibration-free. The Energy, Materials and Systems group (EMS) of the University of Twente has a large experience in this cooler technology based on earlier ESA projects. In this PhD project, carried out at the University of Twente, the sorption-cooler chain has to be designed and experiments will need to be performed for validating modeling and operation.   

You have a Master’s degree in Applied Physics, Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or a closely related discipline; Good knowledge/demonstrated awareness of heat and mass transfer and thermodynamics. Experience in the development of and undertaking experiments in low temperature environment is a plus. You possess good knowledge/demonstrated awareness of (numerical) modeling. Excellent analysis skills and an analytical mind-set, as well as excellent communication skills, including written English language proficiency is a must. You have an ability to work independently and as a member of a research team. A collaborative attitude is strongly desired. You are able to review and engage with interdisciplinary studies and are driven by curiosity.

Contact information: Further information can be obtained from Prof. Marcel ter Brake: h.j.m.terbrake(at)

Please find full information and how to apply here: