Skip to main content

MSCA-COFUND-CLEAR-Doc - PhD Position #CD22-03: Autonomous sensors based on the dielectric breakdown of air using triboelectric generators for structure health monitoring


Job Information

Université Gustave Eiffel
Research Field
Engineering » Electronic engineering
Researcher Profile
First Stage Researcher (R1)
Application Deadline
Type of Contract
Job Status
Hours Per Week
Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?
H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND
Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?

Offer Description

In order to facilitate the deployment of sensors in urban infrastructures in a smart and sustainable city perspective, it is necessary to deploy low cost communicating systems that are energy autonomous, reliable, and if possible compact and based on low polluting materials. In this thesis, we propose to study a new concept of electromechanical capacitive sensors with complete energy autonomy, both for measurement and data transmission, thanks to the combined action of the triboelectric effect and the electrostatic breakdown of air. Two applications will be targeted, the monitoring of suspended structures (e.g. bridges or buildings) based on the variation of their frequency of resonance, and the monitoring of road pavement based on their in-plane or out-of-plane deformation.

Triboelectric energy generators are electrostatic transducers which are self-polarized when two suitable materials are brought into contact [Zha18]. They have the particularity of allowing the generation of voltages of several hundred volts, sometimes in a single mechanical actuation. This high voltage, if applied to the terminals of a "switch" consisting of two conductors separated by a gap of a few microns, can be the cause of the "breakdown" of the ambient dielectric (here the air) if the limits of the Paschen law are reached. Consequently, an electromagnetic wave is generated by this micro-plasma according to the principle of the Hertz experiment [Jou89].

The thesis will consist in implementing conversion of energy from the mechanical domain into electromagnetic waves while encoding the measured data from a capacitive sensor in the transmitted signal. Thus, it will be possible to free the transmitter system from any electronics except for a few diodes and capacitors, which will greatly reduce the overall power consumption. Although it has been demonstrated that such a transmission system with a triboelectric energy generator with a surface area of less than one cm2 can emit an electrical pulse that can be sensed at a distance of more than ten meters [Wang21], the exact mode of transmission and the means of influencing its characteristics are still largely misunderstood.

The proposed approach is to add the capacitive sensor in the transmission loop in order to make the frequency modulation dependent on other mechanical parameters to be measured. These mechanical parameters vary the geometry of the sensors and therefore its capacitance value. This results in a modulation of the frequency, and/or the amplitude and/or the periodicity of the transmitted signal, which can provide information about the dynamic mechanical phenomenon that has caused the modification of the geometry of this additional transducer. For example, it is possible to measure locally, in time and space, an acceleration on a mechanical structure. This acceleration is a response to the mechanical excitation of the structure. When done at distributed localizations across the structure, these acceleration data can be used to infer the structure’s mechanical health. To carry out such distributed measurements, the transmission loop also needs to be tuned so as to allow discriminating between multiple emitting devices.

In a first part, the candidate will design and fabricate the capacitive sensors for the measurement of dynamic mechanical quantities from a civil engineering structure or from the roadway under the effect of a passing vehicle. These sensors will be made using MEMS technologies for miniaturization goals. Realistic mechanical stimuli for in-lab experiments will be provided by Navier (bridge and building applications) and EASE (5G road applications) laboratories, both from Uni Gustave Eiffel. These two collaborations will also allow experiments in real environments.

A second part of the thesis will consist in optimizing the propagation distance by studying the antenna system initially constituted by the micro-plasma switch at the emission and a simple loop antenna at the reception. The candidate will study the possibility of integrating the micro-plasma switch into an antenna and/or a reflector plane in order to improve the directivity of the system.

For a low cost and "natural" approach, the triboelectric energy generators will use cellulose film-based active layers provided by a collaborative research team from the Mid Sweden University. To increase in efficiency, a second active layer of opposite polarity will be added, thanks to a long-term partnership with the team of Prof. S.-W. Kim's from the Sungkyunkwan University (South Korea) which is a world reference for triboelectric materials. The micro-plasma switches could be also MEMS components from the clean rooms of UGE/ESIEE Paris [Zha20] or simple electrical wires.

This thesis will take place at ESYCOM lab (Armine Karami, Jean-Marc Laheurte, Philippe Basset) which has more than 15 years of history in electrostatic kinetic energy harvesting with a focus on triboelectricity in recent years, and more than 20 years of history in antenna design. In addition, collaborations inside Univ Gustave Eiffel will take place with Navier lab (Michaël Peigney) for the bridge and building applications and with EASE lab (Malal Kane) for road-related applications. This thesis includes a long (several months) stay at SKKU and a possible short (a few weeks) stay at Mid Sweden University.






Research Field
Education Level
Bachelor Degree or equivalent
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.

Additional Information

  • High-quality doctoral training rewarded by a PhD degree, delivered by Université Gustave Eiffel
  • Access to cutting-edge infrastructures for research & innovation.
  • Appointment for a period of 36 months based on a salary of 2 700 € (gross salary per month).
  • Job contract under the French labour legislation in force, respecting health and safety, and social security: 35 hours per week contract, 25 days of annual leave per year.
  • International mobility will be mandatory
  • An international environment supported by the adherence to the European Charter & Code.
  • Access to dedicated CLEAR-Doc trainings with a strong interdisciplinary focus, together with a Career development Plan.
Eligibility criteria

Applicants must fulfil the following eligibility criteria:

  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in possession or finalizing their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree.
  • At the time of recruitment, applicants must be in possession of their Master’s degree or equivalent/postgraduate degree which would formally entitle to embark on a doctorate.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research career (career breaks excluded) and not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. Career breaks refer to periods of time where the candidate was not active in research, regardless of his/her employment status (sick leave, maternity leave etc). Short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account.
  • At the time of the deadline, applicants must fulfil the transnational mobility rule: incoming applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than 12 months in the 3 previous years.

One application per call per year is allowed.

Applicants must be available full-time to start the programme on schedule (November 1st 2023).

Application rules are enforced by the French doctoral system which specifies a standard duration of 3 years for a full-time PhD together with the MSCA standards and the OTM-R European rules as follows.

Citizens of any nationality may apply to the programme.

There is no age limit.

Selection process

Please refer to the Guide for Applicants available on the CLEAR-Doc website.

Additional comments
  • The First step before applying is contacting the PhD supervisor. You will not be able to apply without an acceptation letter from the PhD supervisor.
  • International Mobility: Please contact the PhD supervisor for any additional detail on job offer and the international Mobility
  • Please contact the PhD supervisor for any additional detail on job offer.
  • There are no restrictions concerning the age, gender or nationality of the candidates. Applicants with career breaks or variations in the chronological sequence of their career, with mobility experience or with interdisciplinary background or private sector experience are welcome to apply.
  • Support service is available during every step of the application process by email:
Website for additional job details

Work Location(s)

Number of offers available
Université Gustave Eiffel
Île de France
Postal Code
5 boulevard Descartes


5, Boulevard Descartes
Postal Code