PhD Position in Fabrication of Inkjet-Printed Organic Photovoltaic Cells for Integration on Smart Contact Lenses

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Materials Engineering

The work will be mostly performed in the group of “Surface and Interface Engineered Materials” ( at the Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven, and under the direct supervision of Prof. F. Molina-Lopez ( Part of the work will take place at the Center for Microsystems Technology (CMST,, which is an IMEC associated research lab at the Ghent university, under the supervision of Prof. A. Vásquez Quintero (


Smart contact lenses (SCL) combine the form factor of conventional contact lenses with the functionality of electronic systems. This kind of wearable devices holds great promise for the treatment of eye conditions, vision correction, vision enhancement or bio-sensing. The power requirements of SCL makes it necessary to provide them with integrated energy harvesters. Organic photovoltaics (OPV) cells are suitable to harvest energy on SCL because they can obtain energy from ambient light, even from low light levels and at low angles of incidence. 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 small SCL. We will target in this project the fabrication of bulk heterojunction (BHJ) OPVs, in which the active layer includes two intermixed materials: a p-type organic semiconductor (or donor material) and an n-type organic semiconductor (or acceptor material).

The OPV cell must be integrated on a small SCL platform that contains many elements such as an antenna, Si microchips, sensors, etc. Therefore, two conditions must be fulfilled: high patterning resolution of each of the OPV cell material on the small areas available; 2) avoiding using chemical baths or aggressive post-processing steps that might affect the elements already present on the system. To fulfill these two conditions, the use of inkjet and transfer printing is proposed in this project because they permit local material deposition and patterning. In particular, transfer printing is foreseen to fabricate the electrodes and inkjet printing to form the active material. 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 for inkjet-printed materials or by transfer printing of dry films. The inkjet printing parameters will be varied to optimize the morphology of the active layer and the performance of the final device. Different commercial and customized donor and acceptor materials (produced by collaborators) will be tested in order to match the output performance of the OPV cell to the voltage requirements of the SCL platform. 

In this project, the PhD candidate is expected to:

  • Identify printable materials for each of the layers of an 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 SEM, TEM, UV-Vis spectroscopy or GIXD. Stack the layers and study their interface.
  • Build a set-up to measure OPV cells in inert conditions (glove box). Test a dummy (non-patterned) OPV cell fabricated with the materials from the previous point.
  • Develop an inkjet/transfer printing process for the OPV cell, which is compatible with the integration on a SCL, and characterize the performance of the standalone OPV cell.
  • Integrate the OPV cell on a SCL platform. That involves producing specific patterns, and interconnection with the SCL electronics or micro-battery. Test the final system (optional).


- 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 production 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. Moreover, the candidates must show strong interest for the link between experiments and fundamental concepts.

- Communication skills: Ability to work both independently and in a team (in the group and with other departments at KU Leuven), direct communication style. Fluency in spoken and written English is mandatory (minimum IELTS score of 7 or TOEFL of 94)!

- Attitude: Only highly motivated and hard-working candidates willing to work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment will be considered.

- Practicalities: The candidate must be willing to work 10-15% of the time at the Center for Microsystems Technology in Ghent (commuting from Leuven is possible).


The project is funded by an FWO Junior Research Project. 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 and the Department of Electronics and information systems of UGent.

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 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:

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments.

You can apply for this job no later than March 01, 2021 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: March 1, 2021
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen