16 September 2020

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You can apply for this job no later than October 15, 2020 via the online application tool

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Apply before 15 October 2020

The work will be performed in the group of “Surface and Interface Engineered Materials” ( at the Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven, and under the direct supervision of Prof. F. Molina-Lopez (

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Thermoelectrics (TEs) are energy harvesters that convert waste heat into electrical energy and vice versa (they can use electricity to provide active heating/cooling). Among the different classes of TE materials, organic TE materials present the advantages of being non-toxic, abundant, printable and mechanically flexible. Therefore, organic thermoelectrics (OTEs) are perfect candidates to power wearable autonomous sensors integrated in smart textiles or even in direct contact with the skin. Such systems can find multiple applications in biomedicine and sports. However, the current performance of OTEs lags behind the performance of its inorganic counterparts. Molecular alignment has been shown to affect strongly the properties of electronic polymers. Therefore, in this project, the candidate will work on inducing molecular alignment on OTE materials using an externalel ectric field. The hypothesis of this project is that the Electric Field Assisted Molecular Alignment (EFAMA) technique will result in materials with well aligned molecules leading to a boost in their TE performances. The correct measurement of the TE performance of organic thin-film materials is a challenging task. Hence, it will occupy an important part of this project.

In this project, the PhD candidate is expected to:

  • Familiarize him/herself with the concepts of electrical conductivity and mobility, charge carrier concentration, Seebeck coefficient and thermal conductivity, and with the different methods to measure these properties. He/she will be required to master the use of commercial tools to measure these properties and, in some cases, to develop specialized setups.
  • Build a blade coating/solution shearing setup to apply EFAMA on thin films of OTE materials casted from solution using both commercial and customized (semi)conducting polymers with known TE properties.
  • Work in close collaboration with project mates for the morphological characterization of the films.
  • Thoroughly characterize the TE properties of the films and evaluate the effect of the e-field characteristics (AC vs DC, frequency and amplitude) on the final performance.
  • Correlate TE performances with molecular alignment to validate the project hypothesis. Extend the methodology to EFAMA 3D printed thick materials.

- Degree: Master degree in one of the following fields (or similar): Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Process Engineering or Applied Physics.

- Research experience: Master thesis work and/or experience in materials production techniques, material characterization, electrical instrumentation, microfabrication, etc.

- Interests and research profile: Since the research topic is experimental and bridging the fields of materials, electrical and chemical engineering, the applicants are required to have an excellent proven background in engineering sciences and a strong hands-on attitude toward interdisciplinary research with emphasis on electronic polymers processing and characterization. In particular the candidates must:

  • Be keen on instrumentation. They must enjoy building up setups from commercial parts.
  • Enjoy lab work and show strong interest for the link between experiments and fundamental concepts.
  • Be willing to work in close collaboration with the rest of the ERC team in the group and with other departments at KU Leuven (Chemical Engineering, Physics, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering).

- Communication skills: ability to work both independently and in a team, direct communication style. Fluency in spoken and written English is mandatory!

- Attitude: Only highly motivated and hard-working candidates willing to work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment will be considered.


The project is funded by a European Union H2020 ERC grant. It covers competitive salary, lab and conference expenses for a 4-year program towards the completion of a PhD degree at the Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven.

KU Leuven is one of the top 50 universities in the world (top 10 in Europe) according to the "Times Higher Education" ranking, and ranks #7 (top in Europe) in the "World’s Most Innovative Universities" ranking elaborated by Reuters. KU Leuven offers an exciting multi-disciplinary research environment, a broad range of training courses for PhD students, and full social and medical insurance.

Located in Belgium, at the heart of Europe, and less than 3 hours by train from cities like Paris, London or Amsterdam, Leuven is a cultural and historical city with a vibrant international student life style.