PhD position (Empa): Nanophysics and Thermoelectricity

The Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces Laboratory at Empa has an opening for a PhD Student in nanophysics and thermoelectricity

The aim of the project is to design and fabricate molecular junctions with enhanced ability to convert waste heat to electricity making use of quantum interference.  For this purpose, room-temperature quantum interference effects will be exploited at the single-molecule level, with the outlook of integration in massively-parallel molecular arrays.  The PhD student will be a part of a highly interdisciplinary European project that brings together internationally leading scientists from four different countries. He/she will develop expertise in the areas of nano-fabrication, molecular charge transport, electrical characterization and data analysis.

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a strong background in (nano) physics, physical chemistry and/or material science. Excellent communication skills and fluency in English (both written and oral) are mandatory.

The work will be carried out under supervision of  Prof. Dr. Michel Calame. The position will be available from February 2018 on,  with a planned project duration of four years.

The working place will be at Empa in Dübendorf, which offers a highly stimulating research environment with state-of-the-art facilities  and a broad interdisciplinary surrounding. The PhD student will have access to the advanced  nanofabrication facilities available at the Center for Micro- and Nanoscience, ETH Zürich (FIRST lab) and at the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center (BRNC), located at IBM Zürich laboratories.

For further information about the position please contact Dr. Mickael Perrin, and visit our websites  and Empa-Video

We look forward to receiving your online application including a letter of motivation, CV, diplomas with transcripts and contact details of two referees.

Apply now 

Applications via email will not be considered.

This position on Empa website

New paper on SiOx-graphene memristors is just appeared in Nano Letters! Congratulations to Maria!

Congratulations to Maria!

Her paper on the  study of memristive behavior in SiOx-graphene nanojunction is just appeared in Nano Letters!

  • Multiple physical timescales and dead time rule in few-nm sized graphene-SiOx-graphene memristors
    Posa, Laszlo, Maria El Abbassi, Peter Makk, Botond Santa, Cornelia Nef, Miklos Csontos, Michel Calame, and Andras Halbritter.
    Nano Letters, , null (2017). [DOI]

New paper on nanogap formation in graphene is accepted to Nanoscale! Congratulations to Maria!

Congratulations to Maria!

Paper about the  study of environmental effects on the nanogap in graphene formation was just accepted for publication to Nanoscale!

  • From Electroburning to Sublimation: Substrate and Environmental Effects in the Electrical Breakdown Process of Monolayer Graphene
    Abbassi, Maria El, Laszlo Posa, Peter Makk, Cornelia Nef, Kishan Thodkar, Andras Halbritter, and Michel Calame.
    Nanoscale, 9(44), 17312-17317 (2017). [DOI]

    We report on the characterization of the Electrical Breakdown (EB) process for the formation of tunneling nanogaps in single-layer graphene. In particular{,} we investigated the role of oxygen in the breakdown process by varying the environmental conditions (vacuum and ambient conditions). We show that the density of oxygen molecules in the chamber is a crucial parameter that defines the physical breakdown process: at low density{,} the graphene lattice is sublimating{,} whereas at high density the process involved is oxidation{,} independent on the substrate material. To estimate the activation energies of the two processes{,} we use a scheme which consists of applying voltage pulses across the junction during the breaking. By systematically varying the voltage pulse length{,} and estimating the junction temperature from a 1D thermal model{,} we extract activation energies which are consistent with the sublimation of graphene in high vacuum and the electroburning process in air. Our study indicates that a better control of the gaps formation is suitable in the sublimation regime.

Master project (Empa): Electrical and Optical Biosensors


The laboratory “Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces” at Empa Dübendorf and the laboratory “Advanced Fibers” at Empa St. Gallen are looking for strong candidates with a background in biomedical engineering, physics, electrical engineering, biochemistry or a related field for a master thesis research project.

Studying the interactions between biomolecules is crucial for the fundamental understanding of biochemical processes, drug development, and future medical diagnosis. Transducers which directly convert chemical interactions to electrical or optical signals are a promising tool, as they can be fabricated at low cost and integrated into multiplexed systems. To enable the specificity of such systems, understanding the processes at the liquid-solid interphase is of great interest.

In this project, you will develop a sensor based on hybrid transducing, i.e. combining optical sensing based on transmission interferometric adsorption sensors (TInAS)[1] and electrical sensing based on Ion-sensitive field-effect transistors (ISFETs)[2] to study the adsorption of molecules onto surfaces. Your work will include micro fabrication of the sensor devices in a cleanroom environment as well as adapting a measurement setup for the combined optical and electrical readout. Further, the project will involve planning and execution of first experiments to study the interaction of proteins with immobilized ligands on the sensor surface.

You should be highly motivated to work on a multidisciplinary research project in contact with different research groups. For applications (with motivation and CV) or any further questions please contact Mathias Wipf (


[1] M. Heuberger and T. Balmer, Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 2007, 40, 7245-7254.

[2]. See e.g. M. Wipf et al., Label-Free FimH Protein Interaction Analysis using Silicon Nanoribbon BioFETs, ACS Sensors 2016, 1 (6), 781–788.

Biointerfaces International Conference Zurich, August 14−16, 2018

Cosmetic peptide interface from simulation and nanoimaging by xirrus simulation, @ xirrus GmbH

A conference on science, technology and translation

Biological surfaces and interfaces: where synthetic materials and biological systems interact with each other – one of the most innovative and expanding areas of science and Technology.

Biointerfaces International 2018 Conference follows a special format: it aims to build bridges across relevant application areas, between science & engineering, among scientific discovery, Innovation & technology, and between senior scientists & early-career researchers. Both internationally highly renowned and young scientists from academia, industry and clinics present their latest, often unpublished scientific findings and technological breakthroughs. All speakers begin their talks with a General introduction that does not require specialised knowledge to follow. The focus of this conference is education across the many fields of relevance to biological surfaces and interfaces.


Open postdoc position in electrical biosensors

In our group we investigate the potential of Silicon based electronic sensors used for the detection of biologically relevant analytes. With expertise in design and fabrication of micro- and nanostructures, microfluidics, surface chemistry and biochemical processes, we study the fundamentals of electronic chemical and biomedical sensors. The scope of our work ranges from fundamental research projects on the topic of potentiometric and amperometric sensors to applied prototyping.

Your tasks

As postdoc you will be working on several projects as a part of our biosensor team at Empa and on applied projects in cooperation with Avails medical, a startup company specialized in Medical diagnostics located in Menlo Park, California. Your main task will be focused on device design and fabrication for rapid prototyping and include planning, execution and evaluation of experiments. Further it involves presentation of results at conferences as well as publication in scientific journals.

Your profile

You have a PhD degree in engineering sciences (Physics, Electrical Engineering, Material Sciences, Biomedical Engineering) or a related field with a broad background in physics, chemistry or biology. You are highly motivated to work on multidisciplinary research projects. You bring excellent communication skills for close collaborations within a team, as well as a high degree of independence to explore new topics. Extensive experience in cleanroom fabrication is expected. Work experience in BSL-2 labs is of advantage.

Our offer

Our motivated interdisciplinary team of scientists, postdocs, PhD students and technicians offers a great working environment and cutting-edge lab facilities. Further you can profit from our network of collaborators within Switzerland, Europe and the United States, as well as our connections to the industry. The Empa campus in Dübendorf is in commuting distance from Zurich.

The position is immediately available with a contract duration of one year and the option for extension.

The place of work is Dübendorf ZH in Switzerland with occasional trips to California.

For more information please contact Dr. Mathias Wipf,


Link to Empa position full description