Inducing molecular alignment in thermoelectric polymers for improved
Last modification : Thursday, July 15, 2021
The work will be performed in the group of “Surface and Interface Engineered
Materials” (https: // www. mtm.kuleuven.be/onderzoek/siem/SIEM) at the
Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven, and under the direct
supervision of Prof. F. Molina-Lopez.
Thermoelectrics (TEs) are energy harvesters that convert waste heat into
electrical energy and vice versa (they 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 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.
The use of printing technologies facilitates the manufacture of OTE materials
over large areas. In particular, 3D printing is appealing because it allows
the production of vertical structures with high aspect ratio and elaborated
shapes. However, organic printed thermoelectrics suffer currently from low
performances. Their performance depends not only on the material itself, but
also on the way its molecules are arranged in the solid phase. The hypothesis
of this project is that the re-arrangement of the molecules in a way that they
are all oriented in the same direction (uniaxial molecular alignment) will
lead toa boost in the thermoelectric performance of the organic material.
In this project, the PhD candidate is expected to:
Develop a theoretical model to describe the Electric Field Assisted
Molecular Alignment (EFAMA) of 3D printing TE polymers.
Characterize the morphology (UV-Vis spectroscopy, GIWAXS, Raman…) of
thin films and 3D printed thick films uniaxially aligned TE polymers.
Collaborate with other researchers in the group to characterize the
thermoelectric performance of the materials and correlate it with the
morphology. This will validate/refute the initial project hypothesis.
- Degree: Master degree in one of the following fields (or similar):
Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical
Engineering, Nanoscience and Nanoengineering or Applied Physics.
- Research experience: Master thesis work and/or experience in materials
production techniques, material characterization, electrical instrumentation,
microfabrication, or FEM modeling.
- Interests and research profile: The research topic is 80% experimental and
20% theoretical, and it bridges the fields of physics, materials sciences,
electrical engineering and chemical engineering. Hence, the applicants are
required to have an excellent proven background in engineering sciences, with
good knowledge of fundamental concepts, and a strong hands-on attitude toward
interdisciplinary research with emphasis on electronic polymers processing and
characterization. In particular, the candidates must:
Enjoy lab work and be keen on material characterization of polymeric
materials, with emphasis on electronic polymers. Experience in synchrotron
X-ray diffraction is a plus.
Show strong interest for the link between experiments and fundamental
concepts such as dielectrophoresis. Be willing to develop theoretical
models describing the interaction between AC electric fields and matter.
Knowledge of FEM or programming in MATLAB is an asset.
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! Minimum required: IELTS of 7 (no sub score below 6.5) or TOEFL
of 94 (no sub score below 22).
- 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 includes funding
to cover 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. It offers an exciting multi-disciplinary research environment, a
broad range of training courses for PhD students, and full social and medical
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 lifestyle.
For more information, please check our group website: https: // www. molina-
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish,
regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If
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