PhD Positions on Geothermal Energy University College Dublin School of Geological Sciences

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June 30, 2011

Position: PhD Assistantship at the University College Dublin, School of Geological Sciences

Applications are invited for two fully-funded four-year PhD studentships on geochemical aspects of geothermal energy to start in September 2011. Project 1 is supported by Science Foundation Ireland through the IRETHERM project (, which aims to develop a holistic understanding of Ireland’s (all-island) low-enthalpy geothermal energy potential, while project 2 is an Earth and Natural Sciences PhD funded by the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI5), and is closely linked to IRETHERM.

1. 3-D evaluation of radiogenic heat production (Supervisor: Professor Stephen Daly)

3-D variation in radiogenic heat production (controlled by concentrations of heat-producing elements and density) is a fundamentally important control on temperature distribution, lithospheric strength and the geothermal energy budget. Moreover an appreciation of the 3-D distribution of heat production is critical to thermal modelling. High quality heat-production estimates exist for relatively few Irish rocks and, for surface exposures, mean values range from 0.9 – 6.0 ?Wm-3. Intriguingly, preliminary data from deep crustal (22-28 km) granulite-facies xenoliths from central Ireland yield mean heat production values (1.6-2.1 ?Wm-3) higher than the global lower crustal xenolith average (c. 0.5 ?Wm-3) and are at variance with the “standard” model predicting an upper crustal concentration of heat production. This project will carry out a comprehensive 3-D evaluation of radiogenic heat production for the Irish lithosphere based on U, Th and K geochemistry. To this end, Ireland is favoured by rock exposures representing a wide range of original crustal levels and by the widespread occurrence of deep-crustal and mantle xenoliths, available for sampling. Whole-rock samples will be analysed by several techniques (including XRF and isotope dilution mass spectrometry) to evaluate analytical accuracy and precision, while the mineralogical location and mobility of the heat-producing elements will be evaluated by autoradiography and electron- and ion-beam imaging methods. The project will investigate the dependence of heat production on rock type, petrogenesis, age and depth as well as contributing to a critical evaluation of Ireland’s geothermal energy potential.

2. Geothermal potential of buried high heat production granites (Supervisors: Professor Stephen Daly, Dr David Chew (Trinity College Dublin), Dr Mark Muller (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) and Dr Brian McConnell (Geological Survey of Ireland)

The goal of this project is to characterize and model the thermal state and thermal evolution of buried Caledonian granites in Ireland. Some of these, e.g. the Kentstown and Drogheda granites in north Leinster indicate high heat production values ~3.64 µWm-3 at depths of 500 – 700 m beneath an insulating cover of Carboniferous sedimentary rocks, which provide a potential seal to conductive heat transfer. Hence the region is a potential target for shallow heat extraction. This project will involve a geochemical investigation of granitoid and sedimentary rock samples from surface exposures in north Leinster and other related regions. Selected samples will be subject to thermal conductivity measurements and thermochronology, including fission track and U-He dating. These data will be integrated to provide a detailed 3-D temperature model informed by a concurrent magnetotelluric investigation of the same target region of upper crust, undertaken by another IRETHERM PhD student.

Both PhD students will contribute to and benefit from other IRETHERM projects and there will be close interaction with other IRETHERM participants. The two projects will appeal to those with a strong background in geochemistry and petrology, ideally those with MSc-level experience in analytical geochemistry. Training will be provided in sample collection and preparation methods, and in a wide variety of geochemical analytical techniques. For further details, please email Professor Stephen Daly (, including a CV with contact details of three appropriate referees and a covering letter outlining your research interests. The deadline for receipt of applications is 13th July 2011.

Note that applications for project 2 must also be submitted here, specifying project code EEE3. Applicants may apply for both projects.

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