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Postdoctoral position – reactor modeling and design

July 8, 2022


The Atomistic Simulation & Energy (ASE) research group, which is in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is looking to hire a postdoctoral research assistant to work on a recently funded project. The project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), via the REMEDY program. More about the program and this specific project can be found via these links:

This position is for a postdoc in the ASE research group at MIT, and is focused on modeling, but will also involve significant collaborative interactions with the PI, Professor Desiree Plata’s group, in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at MIT. This project is specifically focused on the development of a reactor that facilitates solid-gas interaction of a zeolite catalyst with air that has a low concentration of methane. The purpose of the catalyst is that it enables the combustion of air with methane at concentrations below its flammability limit, so that the methane is converted to CO2, as opposed to having the methane itself emitted to the atmosphere which has much greater climate forcing. This is needed for ventilation air used in coal mines, which end up releasing methane into the ventilation air, but at a concentration that is too low to simply combust.

Other collaborators on the project have demonstrated the catalyst performance, and will conducting further development during the project. The objective of the candidate hired for this position in the ASE group, is to build a reactor model that will be used to predict reactor performance and guide the design of a prototype and pilot scale reactor. The reactor model is envisaged to be constructed in a 3D transient modeling software package, such as ANSYS, COMSOL, OpenFOAM or otherwise. The model will need to account for transient heat transfer, fluid flow, mass transfer and chemical reactions in the context of porous media and/or possibly falling particle flow. One point of concern is the potential for hot spots to develop, as the reaction rate increases with temperature and non-uniformity in the reactor can lead to local thermal runaway and catalyst damage.

Candidates should have an extensive background in modeling the aforementioned phenomena, so they can start developing the model immediately upon arrival. This postdoc position will nominally have a term of 1 year. However, for candidates with extensive experience also conducting experiments, and building reactors, extension to years 2 and 3 of the project are also possible – since the first year will be dedicated towards modeling, while subsequent years will involve construction of a prototype and pilot scale reactor that is tested onsite at a coal mine.

Interested candidates should contact Professor Asegun Henry at immediately, as the position will remain open until filled. When inquiring about the position, please note the title of the position “Ventilation Air Methane (VAM) postdoc position” in the subject line and include a copy of your curriculum vitae (CV). Please also include a cover letter that discusses: (1) how their experience renders them uniquely qualified for the position; (2) their long-term career goals and objectives; (3) why they’re interested in this position; (4) what they would like to get out of the experience. Candidates should also include a sample of their prior work that they were responsible for/led, such as a paper, that shows their utilization of the skills required for this position. Candidates of interest will be contacted by Prof. Henry to set up a Zoom interview and possibly a follow up in person interview at MIT.


Keywords: Mechanical Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Process Engineering; Thermal Engineering; Heat Transfer; Mass Transport; Chemical Reactor; Fluidized Bed; Packed Bed; Energy Conversion; Reactor Design; Reactor Modeling; Reactor Construction and Testing; High Temperature; Ventilation Air Methane; Catalyst; Zeolite; CFD.