PhD Tribomech - Triboelectric Energy Harvesting via Mechanical Design

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.

Envisaged start date: as soon as possible

Project description
Surfaces often become charged after contact, a phenomenon called triboelectricity. In triboelectric generators (TENGs) charging is exploited during a repetitive contact and separation of metals, semiconductors and insulators to harvest energy. Among the physical parameters influencing the performance of a TENG are contact force, chemical and/or physical properties of the mating surfaces, as well as speed and dynamics of contact formation and release.

This project will investigate the role of mechanical properties on the charge separation efficiency using simple tabletop experiments and (analytical and numerical) theory. The idea is that the contact separation velocity is important to freeze-in the charge separated state. Contact separation occurs by interfacial cracks, whose dynamics we seek to understand and control through material properties and patterning. Experiments and theory are closely related to adhesive contact mechanics. Within this project, a second doctoral student will work on building a TENG demonstrator. Close cooperation is expected and will be of mutual benefit. Yet another livMatS project is working on chemical surface effects in a TENG, with additional cooperation opportunities.

Candidate profile
We are looking for a candidate with a university degree in mechanical engineering, physics, materials science, microsystems engineering or a comparable subject. Your qualification will cover several of the following areas:

  • basic understanding of solid mechanics/micromechanics
  • basic understanding of the theory of cracks (fracture mechanics) and contact mechanics
  • basic numerical programming (preferably Python)
  • experience with experimental testing of mechanical properties
  • experience in the programming and operation of computer-controlled lab equipment (e.g. LabView) and measurement equipment (power supplies, multimeters, oscilloscopes)-

Please hand in:

  • Letter of intent detailing 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 until 31 December 2025. 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 00002624, Application deadline is 31 December 2022. Application is to be emailed as ONE SINGLE PDF FILE to

Direct all scientific questions about the project to Prof. Lars Pastewka