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PhD position: Demonstrator for soft autonomous machines - soft robotic low energy gripper systems based on livMatS Materials with sensing capabilities

The Excellence Cluster livMatS welcomes applications for a PhD position: Demonstrator for soft autonomous machines - soft robotic low energy gripper systems based on livMatS Materials with sensing capabilities | term for filing application: 05.07.2020
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The Excellence Cluster livMatS welcomes applications for a

PhD position: Demonstrator for soft autonomous machines - soft robotic low energy gripper systems based on livMatS Materials with sensing capabilities
Part-time position (65 %), Start-date: At the earliest possible date.

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.

In the framework of livMatS, technological demonstrators will be designed and built to integrate the research areas A-D. The demonstrators represent attractive research challenges and serve as lighthouses guiding research in the cluster. Soft autonomous machines (SaMs) encompass a field of robotics, which is based on softness, flexibility and adaptivity of the materials used and concerning the functionality of these devices. Soft motile plant and animal organs represent suitable concept generators as they show different types of elastic deformation and actuation mechanisms. SaMs are of interest in human machine interaction and extreme work environments, in which they especially benefit from their material-immanent softness. Furthering this research field will be the incorporation of materials-system-immanent feedback control and energy harvesting systems. Soft machines as envisioned by livMatS will be able to adapt their properties according to the challenges they are facing or the tasks requested for customized and user-adapted operation.

Within this project, a low-energy-autonomous soft robotic gripper system will be developed that is capable of grasping an object and adapting its grasp depending on the material properties of the object, within a materials-system-immanent feedback control loop and sensory system. To achieve a livMatS materials-systems-based gripper, first baseline, rudimentary gripper systems need to be developed and established. These systems should be capable of identifying, grasping and adapting to objects trough material-immanent feedback loops. A first system will be based among others on dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) actuators and suction cups, similar to those of octopuses.

A PhD researcher with a mechanical engineering background and MEMS experience, will be needed. The PhD candidate will be developing, characterizing and establishing DEAs and the microgripper system for future developments, testing and usage of the livMatS materials as gripper building blocks. For the project it is planned that two PhD students will develop basic bioinspired soft robotic gripper systems incorporating the materials systems developed within the livMatS research areas.

Applicants must hold a master degree microsystems engineering. Key competences for the demonstrator development are physical understanding in quantitative analyses, experience in the development of soft robots and test setups, soft material systems and principle demonstrators. Essential tasks are gripper development, test setup design and interdisciplinary cooperation with the project partners. As an ideal applicant for the position you are creative, communicative, have assertiveness and leadership responsibility, are highly self-motivated and excel at scientific challenges.

Please hand in:

  • Letter of intent detailing why you are interested in this specific project and 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 to 36 months. 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 00001109, by 05.07.2020 at the latest. Please send your application to the following address in written or electronic form:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Freiburger Zentrum für interaktive Werkstoffe
und bioinspirierte Technologien (FIT)
Dr. Monika Schulz
Georges-Köhler-Allee 105
D-79110 Freiburg
Kennwort: livMatS
E-Mail: (please send one PDF file only)
For further information, please contact Herr Prof.Dr. Peter Woias on the phone number +49 761 203-7491 or E-Mail
General and legal remarks:
Full-time positions may generally be split up into two or more part-time positions, provided that there are no formal or legal barriers. Candidates are selected in accordance with the provisions of the AGG (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz - German General Equal Treatment Act).
Applicants with disabilities (Schwerbehinderte Menschen) will be given preferential consideration in case of equal qualification.
The department offering the position is liable for the content of this job posting. Textual errors do not constitute a basis for any claims or rights. The relevant human resources department has sole responsibility for all legal transactions made within the context of the selection and hiring process.
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