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Postdoctoral Researcher – Computational Flow Modeling
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Job Description

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a leader in the U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to secure an energy future that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. With locations in Golden, Boulder and Washington D.C., NREL is the primary laboratory for research, development and deployment of renewable energy technologies in the United States. The NREL mission is to develop renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and practices, advance related science and engineering, and transfer knowledge and innovation to address the nation’s energy and environmental goals.

The Biosciences Center at NREL has an opening for a full-time postdoctoral researcher to support computational-flow modeling projects for the bulk flow and conversion of lignocellulosic biomass. The engineer will develop and apply state-of-the-art discrete element method (DEM) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling approaches to simulate the flow and conversion of biomass feedstocks into and inside reactors. This computational modeling work will focus on extending existing software packages and algorithms to provide actionable guidance to experimental partners on reactor operation and optimization from lab to pilot scale systems.

Primary Duties Include:

  • Perform simulations with little to no oversight and work with modeling collaborators at NREL and other national laboratories and universities.
  • Define, develop, and verify DEM simulations of the flow of biomass particles in hoppers, conveyors, and refiners. This work will include implementation of material properties into the DEM models in order to properly represent the bulk flow of heterogeneous biomass particles.
  • Define, develop, and verify CFD simulations for various biomass-conversion reactor systems ranging from the lab-scale to the pilot-scale. This work will include the incorporation of reduced order kinetic or mechanistic reaction models into CFD models.
  • Effectively communicate and collaborate with researchers and engineers operating relevant reactor systems in order to define the requirements of the simulations/models, obtain necessary data as input for the simulation, and provide meaningful interpretation of the results to guide experiments, operations, and engineering designs.
  • Work with management and senior staff to plan and design projects, determine technical objectives, and interact with and provide regular project reports to government and/or industrial clients.
  • Disseminate knowledge through publications in technical journals and presentations at conferences, symposia, and review meetings. Provide reports on technical work and input to technical publications and presentations.

The successful candidate will have the following skills and experience:

  • Expert in DEM and multiphase CFD simulations and related software (i.e. MFiX, OpenFOAM, Fluent, Barracuda, or related). MFiX and OpenFOAM are preferred.
  • Experience in reaction kinetic modeling and related software (i.e. Chemkin, Cantera, or related).
  • Demonstrated experience in performing simulations studies that inform and collaborate with experimental projects. Experience with pilot facilities or industrial collaborations is highly preferred.
  • Experience is simulating the bulk flow of non-ideal particulate systems.
  • Experience in developing reactor simulations that include both multiphase flows and chemical reaction kinetics.
  • Demonstrated ability to apply engineering knowledge to simulations and system designs.
  • Ability to work independently or in teams and to deliver high-quality results within aggressive timelines.
  • Excellent technical writing, interpersonal, and communication skills.
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving.
  • Dedication to a safe and clean work environment.


Required Education, Experience, and Skills

Must be a recent PhD graduate within the last three years.


Preferred Qualifications

Degree in Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or related field. Strong publication record. Experience with modeling industrial or pilot scale processes such as in the petrochemical or food-processing industries. Experience extracting model parameters from experimental results using simulations coupled to regression methods. Experience with design, operation, and modeling of reactors at multiple scales. Experience with programming software (Python, MATLAB, Mathematica, C++, Fortran, or similar).


Submission Guidelines

Please note that in order to be considered an applicant for any position at NREL you must submit an application form for each position for which you believe you are qualified. Applications are not kept on file for future positions. Please include a cover letter and resume with each position application.


EEO Policy

NREL is dedicated to the principles of equal employment opportunity. NREL promotes a work environment that does not discriminate against workers or job applicants and prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, marital status, ancestry, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or veteran status, including special disabled veterans.

NREL validates right to work using E-Verify. NREL will provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) and, if necessary, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with information from each new employee’s Form I-9 to confirm work authorization. For additional information, click here.

About National Renewable Energy Laboratory

At NREL, we focus on creative answers to today's energy challenges. From breakthroughs in fundamental science to new clean technologies to integrated energy systems that power our lives, NREL researchers are transforming the way the nation and the world use energy.