PhD and PostDoc

Postdoc/PhD position (deadline 12.03.2023)

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 Cluster of Excellence livMatS has an open position for postdoc (24 months) or PhD student (funding guaranteed until 31 December 2025) in the project: “Programmable Triboelectric Energy Harvesting through Mechanical Design (TriboMech)” with envisaged start date: as soon as possible

Envisaged start date: as soon as possible

Project description
When contact between two dissimilar surfaces breaks, they can retain opposite charges. This phenomenon is called the triboelectric effect, and its well-known manifestation is the charging of a silicone balloon if rubbed against someone’s hair. Triboelectric generators (TENGs) exploit the triboelectric effect to harvest mechanical energy from the environment. Multiple prototypes of smart clothes or shoes capable of powering small sensors via this effect have been presented over the last years. However, the triboelectric effect is not well-understood from a physical point of view, which hinders the progress of TENGs and their integration into commercial products. 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.
Here in the Cluster of Excellence, we have a large consortium working on multiple challenges related to the triboelectric effect: from a chemical modification of contact surfaces to engineering large-scale demonstrators. This particular project will investigate the role of mechanical conditions on charge separation efficiency using simple tabletop experiments, numerical methods, and analytical theory. The idea is that the contact separation conditions (compliance of surface, separation velocity, etc.) are important factors, and a better understanding of their contribution will help to create more efficient generators. In general, from theoretical and experimental points of view, this project is closely related to fracture mechanics and adhesive contact mechanics.
Within our tribogen consortium, multiple Ph.D. students and postdocs work on different aspects of the triboelectric effect, and close cooperation with other groups is encouraged. Experimental findings will be actively employed in creating a next-gen TENG demonstrator.

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

  • 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 or PhD thesis (up to 1,000 words)
  • Work sample (chapter from recent thesis or journal article, up to 5,000 words)
  • Suggestion of two references with contact details

Your documents will not be returned after the application process. For this reason, please submit copies only. 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 00002843, Application deadline is 12 March 2023. Application is to be emailed as ONE SINGLE PDF FILE to

Direct all scientific questions about the project to Prof. Lars Pastewka or Dr. Viacheslav Slesarenko

We are always looking for highly motivated researchers who would like to raise their own project within livMatS. The following organizations provide information on funding opportunities: German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) or the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. We can assist you in writing your proposal to join our research group.