Eleven students to help secure clean energy



  • A scientific gathering in Palma bolsters a training programme aimed at PhD students with a view to developing innovative solutions that improve the use of subsurface energy sources


  • Eleven projects will be implemented up to 2027 with advice and support from researchers and businesses around Europe.


Palma hosted the first meeting of the SMILE MSCA-DN European doctoral network on geo-energies between 27th November and 1st December, comprising 15 scientists from research centres, universities, sector businesses and eleven international PhD students. The meeting was led by a team of scientists from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) and kickstarted a training programme to help introduce innovations and improvements in using geo-energy technology—a challenge to consolidate renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions on a global scale.

Photo: Students atending the gathering with Victor Vilarrasa, Researcher at IMEDEA.


The gathering identified specific activities on the SMILE programme to train a new generation of young researchers over the next three years and enable them to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to nurture independence in research endeavours. In turn, the programme aims to help find innovative and revolutionary solutions in the field of geo-energy. More specifically, the eleven students in the SMILE MSCA-DN network will have until 2027 to contribute to the successful deployment of low-emission subsurface energy sources whilst protecting groundwater and related ecosystems. Their tasks include working on subsurface fluid injection and extraction process modelling, applying rock characterisation techniques in the lab and monitoring land deformation by using data from highly instrumented pilot field tests. The young researchers will also get the chance to enhance their research career at the different institutions affiliated with the project.

‘SMILE is a unique opportunity for these eleven students since it provides relevant training for a future career and personal development, whilst also playing an active role in combatting climate change. In short, it means their achievements may contribute to the safe use of geological resources to face up to one of the biggest challenges in today’s society: attaining zero emissions’, explains Víctor Vilarrasa, coordinator of the SMILE doctoral network and senior scientist at IMEDEA.


Geo-energy techniques such as geothermal energy, carbon capture and underground energy storage have the potential to cut total CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 25%. This would contribute to attaining the targets set out in the Paris Climate Accords. These energies already exist, albeit on a small scale: geothermal energy only represents 0.5% of installed power globally, whilst 40 million tonnes of CO2 are stored underground per year. Nevertheless, it is not certain how the subsurface will react as technology gets scaled up. Indeed, geothermal energy is forecast to supply 5% of total energy and carbon capture is set to store around 8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year towards the middle of this century.


A benchmark European programme for doctoral and post-doc training


The SMILE MSCA-DN network is part of the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe (2021-2027) programme to support research excellence and innovation. It aims to develop innovative solutions applied to geo-energy through training a new generation of young researchers for the successful deployment of low-emission subsurface energy sources, whilst protecting groundwater and related ecosystems. By incorporating different disciplines (hydrogeology, geomechanics, geochemistry, geology, remote sensing and virtual reality) in close collaboration between members, the project has the potential to produce innovations that speed up the deployment of large-scale geo-energy techniques.


The SMILE acronym is inspired by research methods involving a multidiSciplinary and MultI-scale approach to assess coupLed processes induced by geo-Energies.



More information: https://smile-msca-dn.eu/