PhD scholarship in Miniaturised Microbial Solar Cells

Monday 10 Feb 20

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Apply no later than 5 April 2020
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We are looking for a talented PhD candidate to join the project ‘Pyrolytic Hierarchical Organic Electrodes for sustaiNable Electrochemical Energy Systems (PHOENEEX)’, which is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant. The overall vision of PHOENEEX is to develop a miniaturised biobattery. In this context, you will work in close collaboration with several researchers in an interdisciplinary team.

We are based at DTU Nanolab, where we conduct cross-disciplinary research and apply micro- and nanotechnology to a wide range of scientific disciplines and applications. The Biomaterial Microsystems group is a highly ambitious group, pursuing research on microfabrication of 3D polymer and carbon structures and devices and their application in drug delivery, bioelectrochemistry and biosensing.

Responsibilities and tasks
In microbial solar cells (MSCs), oxygenic microorganisms such as cyanobacteria or algae are used to capture light, carry out charge separation of water and transfer electrons to an electrode generating electrical power. The advantage of PMFCs is that the energy source is solar light, which is virtually unlimited. Furthermore, compared to traditional solar cells, solar cells based on oxygenic photosynthetic microorganisms are potentially able to deliver current in the dark where organic matter accumulated during operation in daylight conditions is processed by the microbes. MSCs require a suitable hosting support for 3D microbial biofilms, which cannot be efficiently electrochemically connected to electrodes with poorly defined architecture. We believe that this is a major limitation, as mainly the microorganisms in close proximity to the electrode contribute to the electron transfer. In PHOENEEX, we will explore hierarchically structured 3D carbon microelectrodes potentially allowing electrochemical energy harvesting in the full depth of the bacterial cultures.

Your main contribution will be the design, fabrication and evaluation of a miniaturized MSC. First, biofilm formation on carbon electrodes will be investigated and eventually the surface chemistry has to be optimized. Next, a systematic investigation of the influence of geometry and material properties of carbon microelectrodes on the electron transfer and the energy harvesting from photosynthetic microorganisms such as cyanobacteria will be conducted. Furthermore, the optimization of light transfer to the bacterial biofilms will be investigated. Finally, the performance will be compared to state of the art MSCs. The work will be conducted in close collaboration with Cambridge University.

We expect that you:
  • embrace the responsibility to plan and execute experimental research
  • are interested in cell biology, material science, microbial electrochemical systems and electrochemistry, and are eager to explore new research areas
  • ideally have experience with bioelectrochemistry, cell culturing and/or microsystem fabrication
  • have excellent engineering skills and an analytical mindset
  • are motivated to contribute to technology enabling sustainable energy
  • appreciate teamwork and have the ability to interact and collaborate with researchers and laboratory technicians in a very cross-disciplinary environment

Candidates should have a master's degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, analytical chemistry, material science, microengineering or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to the master's degree in engineering. The PhD project will be very interdisciplinary and the candidate is expected to have the interest to explore new bio-applications of carbon-based materials. A high grade average is decisive to be considered for the scholarship.

Approval and Enrolment

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.


The assessment of the applicants will be made by Associate Professor Stephan Sylvest Keller (DTU Nanolab), Professor Jenny Emnéus (DTU Bioengineering) and Postdoc Galina Pankratova (DTU Nanolab).

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms

The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

The fabrication of the microsystems will be carried out at DTU Lyngby Campus at DTU Nanolab. Through the ERC grant, a new laboratory – the PHOENEEX lab - will be established providing the infrastructure necessary to conduct the research in this ambitious project.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Stephan Sylvest Keller,, tel.: +45 4525 5846.

You can read more about DTU Nanolab and the Biomaterial Microsystems group at

More information on the framework of the ERC Consolidator Grant can be found here:

Please submit your online application no later than 5 April 2020.

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one single PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it. 

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Nanolab is a common infrastructure and research facility located at and fully owned by the Technical University of Denmark, DTU. The core facilities consist of a large cleanroom and a state-of-the-art electron microscopy center inaugurated in 2007. The research activities carried out at DTU Nanolab span from nano- and microfabrication with Silicon-based materials, carbon and polymers to the highly sophisticated analysis of nanoscale materials in hard and soft matter. Since 2018, DTU Nanolab is extended to provide expertise in soft matter from small molecule complexes to biological cells.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 11,500 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup and in Sisimiut in Greenland.
26 FEBRUARY 2020