Doctoral Researcher in Digital twin in optimization of wastewater treatment’s carbon balance

Aalto University

Espoo, Finland 🇫🇮

Aalto University is an international community of bold thinkers where science and art meet technology and business. We are committed to identifying and solving grand societal challenges and building an innovative future. Aalto University has six schools with nearly 20 000 people, over 400 of which are professors. Our campus is located in Espoo, Finland. School of Engineering is an international unit with nearly 70 talented professors and 3400 full-time students, including doctoral students.

Aalto University School of Engineering, Department of Built Environment is looking for  A DOCTORAL RESEARCHER IN Digital twin in optimization of wastewater treatment’s carbon balance DIGICARBA

Project description

Water and wastewater treatment are basic necessities in our welfare societies safeguarding health and prosperity by providing key assets for many services and industries as well as protecting the environment. When providing the water and wastewater treatment direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are produced, wastewater treatment being the largest contributor to these emissions. During wastewater treatment direct emissions are produced in the nutrient removal process (nitrous oxide) and in the sludge treatment and storage (methane). Indirect emissions are coming from energy consumption and the use of chemicals. During the past decades the major sources for emissions have been identified and mitigation strategies have been developed in Finland and elsewhere.

The main focus of the wastewater treatment has been to meet the effluent requirements specified by the environmental permit while operating the process in a cost-effective manner. Recently, ambitious goals for climate impact mitigation have been set in country, municipality and water utility level. This has led to a new focus in plant operation towards climate impact mitigation and offset benefits.

This research project develops a digital twin of the wastewater treatment process which will enable proactive information-driven decision-making and predictive process control. Digital twin, in this case, refers to combinations of models and real-time data that provide a digital representation of a wastewater treatment process’ behaviour This enhanced process operation will decrease the greenhouse gas emissions and improve the energy efficiency as well as the effluent quality. The process control is based on automated simulations predicting the behavior of the process and providing new information to support the process operation decision-making.

In addition, the project compiles information about market potential of the advanced wastewater treatment process control systems and actual digital twins. The advanced tool which enables comprehensive impact optimization and includes dynamic climate impact in real-time is foreseen to offer a competitive advantage for the next generation automation systems and allow for the partner companies to thrive in the international markets.    

Research questions of the doctoral thesis project are the following:

1)            How can a digital twin be implemented in an advanced wastewater treatment process including carbon footprint optimization?

2)            What is an operator-friendly and feasible solution? How can the solution be used?

3)            What are the benefits achieved and what kind of resources are needed with a well-functioning digital twin?

4)            What is the market potential of the digital twin?

The project will be carried out as a 4-year doctoral study project leading to a Doctoral thesis from Aalto University. The research methods will be full-scale experiments, modelling and market studies. The work will be realized in Aalto University Department of Built Environment Water and Environmental Engineering Research group. The experimental work will be done in collaboration with FCG process experts, Valmet Automation specialists and HSY wastewater treatment plants operating and managing team. The project starts during Spring 2023.

Main project partners

Aalto-korkeakoulusäätiö sr, operating as Aalto University, is a Finnish multidisciplinary university in the fields of science and technology, economics, architecture, and art and design. The Aalto community consists of about 19000 students (of them, about 12% international) and more than 4600 employees, including ca. 400 professors. Aalto University produces ca. 2000 peer-reviewed journal articles and over 200 doctors yearly. The cornerstones of Aalto University research are four fundamental competence areas: ICT and digitalization, materials and sustainable use of natural resources, global business dynamics, and arts and design. Aalto University comprises six schools and will participate in this project with two of them: the School of Engineering (Aalto-ENG) and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Aalto-ARTS). The School of Engineering’s strengths include application oriented systems know-how and its tradition of experimental research, societal interaction and impact, and expertise in engineering. Aalto’s contribution from Aalto-ENG is managed in the Department of Built Environment’s Water and Environmental Engineering Group by Professor of Practice Anna Mikola. The group has focused on nutrient removal in municipal wastewater treatment since 1980s and more recently the research and development efforts are directed to carbon neutrality in wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery.

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY is a municipal body, which produces waste management and water services, as well as providing information on the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and environment. HSY supplies high-quality drinking water for over one million inhabitants throughout the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. HSY treats wastewater generated by households and industry in order to protect the Baltic Sea as well as build and repair the water pipe and sewer network​. The member cities of the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY are Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen and Vantaa. HSY promotes the implementation of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Climate Strategy 2030 and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

Finnish Consulting Group FCG is one of the leading companies in Finland working on the water and wastewater engineering designs. FCG has a long and wide experience on process, operation, instrumentation and automation design and it has prepared these designs for HSY’s wastewater treatment plants (Viikinmäki and Blominmäki). FCG has been also active in studying and developing solutions for wastewater treatments’ climate impact mitigation as well as digital solutions for process operation and control.

Valmet Automation provides the automation system in use in HSY’s wastewater treatment plants. Valmet has a strong expertise on process operation optimization using efficient control systems and has a global network of references in wastewater treatment plant automation.

Duration, financing, and salary

The doctoral studies at Aalto University take approximately 4 years. The doctoral degree is granted after writing a relatively short summary doctoral thesis (which is typically based on the student’s publications) and public defence.

Currently, the starting gross salary for doctoral students is around 2500€ per month and is increased in with the progress towards getting the doctoral degree to over 3100€ per month. The prospective doctoral students will be granted a one-year contract first, followed by an evaluation and extension after two years for another two-year period depending on the achievements during the contractual periods. The contracts include occupational health services, and Finland has a comprehensive social security system. Among European cities, Helsinki is special in being safe, clean, and close to nature, with a high quality of life. English is spoken everywhere. For more information about living in Finland:

How to apply?

The applicants are required to have completed Master level studies in high-quality educational organization in a discipline supporting the research theme and methods. Good language skills in English are required and a good command of Finnish is desirable. The applicants are kindly asked to apply for the position by sending their CV, study records from the Master studies and a motivation letter by February 14th, 2023. The application should be sent through the Workday system (link “Apply now!” below) and material should be submitted in English in a single pdf-file.

More information

For more information please contact. Prof. Anna Mikola (

General information about doctoral studies at Aalto University can be found on the “Into” page (





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