PhD Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting with Responsive Metamaterial Surfaces - Device Fabrication

The Cluster of Excellence livMatS develops completely novel, bioinspired 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 the following PhD position for the project:

Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting with Responsive Metamaterial Surfaces - Device Fabrication

Envisaged starting date is 15 October 2022

Project description
The livMatS ThermoMetaS project, aims to develop a 3D printable self-contained metamaterial system capable of harvesting thermal energy from its surroundings and acting autonomously to external temperature changes by altering its shape. The project is comprised of two research parts; the one offered here, is focused on development, implementation and miniaturization of existing ThermoBatS harvesters as actors. In the livMatS project ThermoBatS, micro-thermoelectric generators (μTEG) with phase change materials (PCMs) as thermal buffers in the form of PCM-μTEG-PCM stacks have been developed mostly for energy harvesting purposes. The ThermoMetaS projects focuses on the optimization of these existing systems as mechanical actuators, both under natural temperature changes and actively controlled by using the µTEG as a Peltier device. For the device fabrication, techniques like high energy ball milling, dispenser printing, spin coating, uni-axial hot pressing and laser micro-structuring are used. In parallel, another part of the project will develop methods for 3D printing of the PCM components as well as electrical connections and even thermoelectric materials.

Therefore, the fabrication methods will be adapted over time. The task in the ThermoMetaS project will involve:
• Knowledge transfer from the ThermoBatS project
• Adaptation and implementation of the harvester part of the project
• Development/adaptation and implementation of the actuator system
• Implementation of 4D printing technology into the fabrication process

The final goal of the project, is to develop technology demonstrators together with all project partners, to showcase some mechanical actuation and storage concepts, e.g. a slow reacting proportional system, a fast system based on a μTEG-PCM stack combined with a bi-stable membrane and a system with an integrated ratcheting mechanism to store mechanical energy – to name a few.

Candidate profile
The ThermoMetaS project poses challenges in the fields of microsystems and electrical engineering as well as chemistry and physics, which have to be meet by one candidate working mostly independent on the topic. Supervision and guidance will be provided by experts from the respective fields but the applicant will be the link between the different areas. The candidate is therefore required to have a strong background in either micro systems engineering, physics or chemistry AND to have a strong interest in training him- or herself in the other fields as necessary for the project. The candidate will work on his / her topic in a community lab space in close collaboration with other team members, with similar topics. Therefore, very good written and spoken English skills as well as communication skills and the ability to work in a team are required for this position. Spoken German skills would be preferred, but are not mandatory.

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 (BA and MA 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 limited to 36 months. 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 00002443, Application deadline is 04 September 2022. Application is to be emailed as ONE SINGLE PDF FILE to positions@livmats.uni-freiburg.de.

Direct all scientific questions about the project to Dr. Uwe Pelz