PhD Autonomous Eyeball

The Cluster of Excellence livMatS develops completely novel, life-like materials systems that adapt autonomously to various environments and harvest clean energy from their surroundings. The intention of these purely technical – yet in a behavioral sense quasi-living – materials systems is to meet the demands of humans with regard to pioneering environmental and energy technologies. The societal relevance of autonomous systems and their sustainability will thus play an important role in their development. The research program of livMatS is characterized by highly interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from a broad range of fields including engineering, chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, the humanities, and sustainability sciences.

The livMatS Cluster of Excellence is offering 1 PhD position for the project:

The Autonomous Eyeball: how optically controlled optics can use light to steer light

Project description
The goal of this project is to engineer and demonstrate an eyeball-like optical system which autonomously adapts its optical behavior to the environment. Key to the realization of such a system are two families of developments previously demonstrated: 1) design and fabrication of soft-matter-based optics using controllably-deformable polymers; and 2) implementation of liquid-crystal elastomer-based films which can be controllably actuated in response to light stimulation.

Based on this prior work, we aim now to engineer an optical imager based on a highly compliant deformable lens whose focal length can be modified by radial and circumferential compression and tension applied by light-actuated liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs) in combination with an LCE-based iris whose aperture varies in response to ambient light levels. The system will thus be tunable in focus and aperture with only light as an external control stimulus and power source. Combined with a solid-state sensor, this complete “eyeball” would represent a micro-imaging system which both responds autonomously to ambient conditions and is remotely controllable by light.

Candidate profile
To address the research challenge defined by this project, we are looking for a highly-motivated scientist or engineer with a solid background in optical, mechanical, microsystems or electrical engineering. Experience in numerical modelling of mechanical systems; chemical synthesis; and/or microfabrication is a plus. The candidate should have completed her or his MSc degree in a relevant field; be fluent in English; and have demonstrated ability to work both independently and as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Please hand in
• Letter of intent detailing why you are interested in this specific project and how your previous research qualifies you for the project (up to 1,500 words)
• Curriculum Vitae with list of publications (if applicable)
• Certified copies of your university degree(s) with grades (BSc and MSc certificate / Diploma certificate and transcript)
• Short summary of your master’s thesis (up to 1,000 words)
• Work sample (chapter from recent thesis or journal article, up to 5,000 words)
• Suggestion of two referees with contact details

Your documents will not be returned after the application process. For this reason, please submit copies only. This position is funded until 31 December 2025 and an extension is possible. The salary will be determined in accordance with TV-L E13. We are particularly pleased to receive applications from women for the position advertised here.

Please send your application in English including supporting documents mentioned above citing the reference number 00003044. Application deadline is 30 June 2023.

Application is to be emailed as one MERGED PDF file to Envisaged start date is ASAP.

For questions about the project, contact Prof. Hans Zappe at