PhD Position: The stochastic thermodynamics of nanomechanical computers

PhD Position: The stochastic thermodynamics of nanomechanical computers

Published Deadline Location
18 Jun 15 Dec Amsterdam

Job description

Work Activities
Scientific background – The energy consumption of computers is a significant scientific and societal problem: Information technology is already responsible for more CO2 emissions than the airline industry. At the fundamental level, the energy cost of a computation is dictated by the laws of thermodynamics: computations must evolve in time in a pre-defined direction – we want our codes to run from the beginning to the end and not in reverse! However, in equilibrium, processes are equally likely to run forward than backward. Establishing an arrow of time (a preferential direction of evolution) requires consuming free energy. The problem of quantifying the energy cost of computers is the domain of stochastic thermodynamics, a sub-field of statistical physics focused on small systems far from equilibrium – as computations are inherently out-of-equilibrium and involve few degrees of freedom (bits).

Key challenge and approach – Experimentally probing the energy limits of computers is challenging because it requires components (logic gates, memories) that can be activated with very small energies, and that have low power losses (such as Joule heating). We plan to tackle this challenge by building (nano) mechanical computers, processing information using very small structures that can bend under tiny forces (encoding a one or a zero depending on the direction of bending), that consume an extraordinarily small amount of energy in the process. We will actuate the nanostructures using optical forces, and measure them using custom, on-chip optical interferometers to quantify the energy consumption.

Key tasks: The Ph.D. position will be primarily experimental. The student will be tasked with fabricating nanomechanical bits and logic gates (in a cleanroom) and experimentally studying their evolution (using photonic characterization tools). Occasional numerical simulations with existing in-house codes will be conducted to help interpret and contextualize the results.

What are we looking for: We are looking for an experimentally-minded student with a MSc degree in physics or engineering. Experience in cleanroom nanofabrication, optomechanics or stochastic thermodynamics is a plus but not required. Perseverance and willingness to take on challenging experiments is a must.

Work environment
AMOLF is a part of NWO-I and initiate and performs leading fundamental research on the physics of complex forms of matter, and to create new functional materials, in partnership with academia and industry. The institute is located at Amsterdam Science Park and currently employs about 140 researchers and 80 support employees.

What we offer: We are a diverse and international research group, with a supportive and collaborative atmosphere, working on the growing field of information processing in physical systems. The group is hosted in a vibrant department focused on information processing across diverse platforms (photonics, mechanics, biology) with possibility to interact with other leading theoretical and experimental groups. Our institute is equipped with a state of the art, on-site cleanroom (including electron microscopes, electron beam lithography, Nanoscribe, FIB, etching and layer deposition equipment). The Ph.D. includes funding to attend several international conferences. This research, at the forefront of statistical physics, nanotechnology and physical computing, is relevant to fundamental physics as well as to applications given the exponential growth in the energy costs of artificial intelligence.

Working conditions
  • The working atmosphere at the institute is largely determined by young, enthusiastic, mostly foreign employees. Communication is informal and runs through short lines of communication.
  • The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years
  • The starting salary is 2.781 Euro’s gross per month and a range of employment benefits.
  • After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at a Dutch University.
  • Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students.
  • AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

More information?
For further information about the position, please contact Marc Serra Garcia:

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

Diversity code
AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment: we want to develop talent and creativity by bringing together people from different backgrounds and cultures. We recruit and select on the basis of competencies and talents. We strongly encourage anyone with the right qualifications to apply for the vacancy, regardless of age, gender, origin, sexual orientation or physical ability.

AMOLF has won the NNV Diversity Award 2022, which is awarded every two years by the Netherlands Physical Society for demonstrating the most successful implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.




  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • max. €2781 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 3357


Science Park 104, 1098XG, Amsterdam

View on Google Maps

Interesting for you


Apply for this job

Apply for this job

This application process is managed by the employer (AMOLF). Please contact the employer for questions regarding your application.

Thank you for applying

Please contact the employer for questions regarding your application.

Tip: save this job as favorite in your AcademicTransfer account. This gives you an immediate overview and makes it easy to find the job later on. No account yet? Create it now and take advantage of other useful functionalities too!

Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 15 Dec 2024 10:50 (Europe/Amsterdam).