PhD position in “Highly-energetic Al/CuO thermite coatings through nanoparticle Composites”. Empa is the research institute for materials science and technology of the ETH Domain and conducts cutting-edge research for the benefit of industry and the well-being of society.

Our Laboratory for Joining Technologies and Corrosion is offering a PhD position: “Highly-energetic Al/CuO thermite coatings through nanoparticle Composites”

General Information: Nano-thermites constitute an innovative class of energetic materials, which can be applied as customized heat sources for joining of a wide variety of dissimilar materials, as well as for biological neutralization, electric ignition, thermal batteries and one-step combustion synthesis of a variety of nanomaterials. Broad industrial application of nano-thermites is severely hampered by the limited exothermic heat of the employed exothermic reaction between the oxidizer (i.e. a metal-oxide) and the fuel (i.e. a reactive metal), relatively high ignition temperatures and costly and elaborate manufacturing procedures. The current project therefore aims at the development of a new generation of highly exothermic nanoparticle-based thermite composite coating systems through innovative and cost-effective chemical synthesis routes.

Key tasks / Responsibilities

In a first stage of the project, the synthesis of colloidal dispersions of surface-functionalized CuO nano-crystals with different monodisperse particle sizes in the range of 50 to 200 nm will be mastered. Subsequently, viable deposition routes for nano-composite coatings based on the CuO colloidal dispersions will be evaluated, aiming at a homogenous distribution of monodisperse CuO NPs (acting as the oxidizer) in a reactive metal matrix (acting as the fuel). The exothermic reactivity of the nano-thermite coatings will be evaluated by differential scanning calorimetry and high-speed thermal camera monitoring, while employing different ignition methods. The microstructure of the as-deposited and reacted coatings will be investigated in detail by e.g. TEM, SEM, XRD and AES/XPS. Successful completion of the proposed working plan will enable novel joining technologies for packaging and assembly of microscale devices and sensing components at ever-lower temperatures. The proposed collaboration combines unique expertise in the fields of monodisperse nanocrystal synthesis, electrochemistry and materials science.

Requirements / Qualifications – 

  • You should have a strong experimental background in Chemical Synthesis with an outspoken interest to perform application-driven research in the field of Materials Science and Technology.
  • Expert knowledge in the field of chemical synthesis is mandatory.
  • Strong backgrounds in the following areas are a clear benefit: electrochemistry, materials science, diffraction techniques (e.g. XRD and TEM).
  • Excellent knowledge of English (oral and written) is mandatory. The ability to collaborate in a multidisciplinary research environment is essential.

We offer

The 3-year PhD project is funded by Empa and will be performed at the laboratory for Joining Technologies & Corrosion in close-collaboration with the Functional Inorganic Materials Group of Prof. Dr. Maksym Kovalenko at the ETH Zürich. Accordingly, you will be integrated in the PhD Program of the ETH Zürich. Your main workplace and employment will be at Empa, but parts of the research may also be carried out at ETH Zürich.

We offer a challenging position in a materials research institution with outstanding infrastructure and broad interdisciplinary surroundings. You will be integrated in a highly multidisciplinary team of chemists, material scientists, surface physicists, metallurgists, and mechanical engineers to drive innovations in the emerging field of nano- and micro-joining technologies.

The position is available from 1st February 2016 (or later upon agreement).

How to Apply: We are looking forward to your application including a  motivation letter, CV, information about grades and other measures of success and two reference letters.

For more information, please contact Dr. Lars P.H. Jeurgens, or Prof. Dr. Maksym Kovalenko,

Please submit your application online and upload all documents (“pdf”-file is recommended) through this webpage. Any other way of applying will not be considered.

Location: Switzerland

Application deadline: Unspecified

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