A new international doctoral programme in materials science is receiving approximately 4 M€ in funding from the European Union. The project is an Innovative Training Network (ITN), one of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), aimed at training a new generation of early-stage researchers able to face current and future challenges. The project, entitled “Hybrid and ORgAnic ThermoElectricSystems” (HORATES), will focus on the development of organic materials suitable for converting unused waste heat into electricity. 15 young scientists will conduct research on this topic and work on their PhD projects.
Three researchers from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB) participate in this four-year interdisciplinary programme: Dr. Mariano Campoy-Quiles and Dr. Sebastián Reparaz, from the Nanostructured Materials for Optoelectronics and Energy Harvesting (NANOPTO) group, and Dr. Riccardo Rurali, from the Laboratory of Electronic Structure of Materials (LEEM). The two groups will host two doctoral candidates (one in each group) to advance in the field of organic thermoelectrics for energy conversion.
The international project includes many other research centres, universities and companies in Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and France, and is coordinated by Heidelberg University. Prof. Dr Martijn Kemerink of the Centre for Advanced Materials, the materials science research centre of Heidelberg University, is the programme’s spokesperson.
Converting waste heat into electricity
Waste heat from technical devices and even heat given off by living beings is a ubiquitous source of energy and can be harnessed to produce electricity. One possible application is powering small sensors. “We intend to use a mechanism known as the thermoelectric effect to convert the energy, whereby a difference in temperature can be transformed into electrical energy,” explains Prof. Kemerink.
Until now, inorganic materials have been used for converting and storing energy. This international PhD programme will concentrate on developing organic materials, whose greater mechanical flexibility and low thermal conductivity make them potentially more efficient performers than conventional inorganic materials for these applications.
Dr. Campoy-Quiles is enthusiastic about the project and states that “We expect HORATES to result in major breakthroughs both at fundamental level and in terms of applications of organic thermoelectrics”.
According to Prof. Kemerink, the current state of technology in organic thermoelectrics is not yet far enough for market-ready applications, so this project aims at advancing also in this direction.
Figure: Artist impression of an organic thermogenerator, harvesting body heat to provide power to an autonomous electronic device. Image: Ella Maru Studio.
Doctoral candidates are welcome to apply
The doctoral candidates will work through the full chain of organic thermoelectrics, from molecular design and chemical synthesis to device development, including theoretical modelling. The structured programme for 15 doctoral candidates, two of whom will be conducting research at the ICMAB, is organised under the auspices of an innovative training network with scientific and practical experts serving as advisors.
At the ICMAB, one PhD position is for experimental studies of the thermoelectric properties of organic semiconductors, with emphasis on the thermal transport, and the other is for developing a theoretical understanding of which chemical and structural features of the materials control the flow of heat on these systems.
Work is scheduled to start in early 2021. Funding is being provided within the framework of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action of the Horizon 2020 programme, the research and innovation funding programme of the European Union.
The eleven partners of the project are in the Universität Hildelberg, the Technische Universität Chemnitz, and InnovationLab GmbH, in Germany; the Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, in Italy; The Chalmers Tekniska Hoegskola AB, the Linkopings Universitet and hot Disk AB in Sweden; the ICMAB-CSIC and Fundació Eurecat in Spain, the Rijksuniversiteit Gröningen in The Netherlands and the CNRS in France.
This is one of the 12 MSCA-ITN that has received funding from the EU Comission within the CSIC. In this edition, Spain was the third country in the number of proposals funded (20), only behind The Netherlands (24) and Germany (22). During the whole H2020 programme, the CSIC has received 75 MSCA-ITN, which has involved more than 30 M€ of funding and the training of 270 PhD candidates.