PhD Position in Fabrication of Inkjet-Printed Organic Photovoltaic Cells for Indoor Energy Harvesting on Small Wearables

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Materials Engineering

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


Wearables are smart electronic systems that can be worn as clothing. They hold great promise in biomedical and sport applications. Wearables involve many sensors and devices that require power. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) cells are suitable for harvesting energy to power wearables because they can obtain energy from indoor light. Furthermore, OPV are made from organic materials, which present the advantages of being non-toxic, abundant and mechanically flexible. Those features are desirable for integration on wearables. We will target in this project the fabrication of bulk heterojunction (BHJ) OPVs, in which the active layer includes two intermixed organic semiconducting materials: a p-type (donor) and an n-type (acceptor). The use of inkjet and transfer printing is proposed because they permit local material deposition and patterning on smart wearables such as smart contact lenses. Special attention must be taken to find materials that can be printed on stacks without degrading the material underneath. This will be achieved by using orthogonal solvents of inkjet-printed materials or by transfer printing of dry films. 
In this project, the PhD candidate is expected to:
  • Identify printable materials for each of the layers of a flexible OPV cell (anode, hole transport layer, donor-acceptor active layer, electron transport layer and cathode), deposit them in test films and characterize their nanostructure using techniques such as AFM, SEM, TEM, UV-Vis spectroscopy or GIWAXS. Stack the layers and study their interface.
  • Build a set-up to measure OPV cells in inert conditions (glove box) and upon mechanical bending. 
  • Develop an inkjet/transfer printing process for the OPV cell, which is compatible with the integration on a wearable system.
  • Integrate the OPV cell on a wearable platform. That involves producing specific patterns and interconnection with electronics or micro-battery.


- Degree: Master degree in one of the following fields (or similar): Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Bioengineering or Applied Physics.
- Research experience: Master thesis work and/or lab experience in materials processing 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:
  • 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. 
  • Be willing to work in close collaboration with the rest of the team and other departments at KU Leuven (Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics…).
- 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 subscore below 6.5) or TOEFL of 94 (no subscore 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 covers competitive salary, medical care, lab and conference expenses for a 3.5 to 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 11 in Engineering in Europe) according to the Times Higher Education ranking 2022 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 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 lifestyle. 


For more information, please check our group website:
You can apply for this job no later than January 31, 2022 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: January 31, 2022
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen