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/Job opportunities/Thermo-mechanical simulation of integrated PV modules

Thermo-mechanical simulation of integrated PV modules

PhD - Genk | More than two weeks ago

Increase lifetime of PV-modules by better understanding of thermo-mechanical behaviour of PV-modules

As the penetration of renewables is set to extensively grow in the next decades, besides utility scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants, deployments of PV in our built environment will become increasingly important. Energy generation close to its end use is highly effective and also importantly limits the use of valuable land. In parallel the increasing concern for aesthetics, motivates the demand of seamless integration of PV as an additional functionality in existing elements as e.g. in buildings (BIPV), vehicles (VIPV), and infrastructure (IIPV). Buildings contribute to more than 36% of the total CO2 emission of Europe. The integration of PV in roofs and facades is a widely recognized solution to curb their environmental impact. Similarly, the integration of photovoltaic cells in car roofs, urban infrastructure such as parking, bus and train station covers would enable to create more autonomous installations. Finally, these integrated photovoltaic modules provide a material efficient solution through their multiple functions and a possible reduction in total installation cost.

Integrated photovoltaic solutions often call for light-weight, curved, flexible and even colored panels. New generations of module materials and cell interconnection technologies and module assembly methods have emerged and are under intense development. During the design and selection of materials for integrated PV panels their reliability and safety is of paramount concern. PV modules should withstand minimal loss in performance for more than 20 years (and even more for BIPV) under the impact of outdoor environmental conditions: temperature extremes, humidity, rain, wind, snow and other mechanical shocks.

To develop robust solutions, we apply the design-for-reliability approach in our research, assessing the application requirements and conducting in-depth simulations and testing. A crucial part of this assessment is the simulation of the thermo-mechanical stresses during the lifecycle of the module: production, installation and operational phase. We have developed a unique finite-element and multi-scale mechanical stress modelling framework, jointly established by imo-imomec @ UHasselt and imec. The unique feature of the framework is the coupling between the different simulation scales. We are looking for a candidate interested in conducting research on the cross-road of material science, physics, technology and computing. The specific focus of the PhD will be the assessment of novel interconnection technologies for integration in curved and/or light-weight modules for various building, vehicle and infrastructure integrated PV modules. Development and validation of the framework with experimental results has been started and will remain the focus to extend the application range of the framework. Continued development of advanced measurement methods to extract the relevant thermo-mechanical material and interface properties as input to the model will be part of the PhD topic.

This PhD is conducted in close collaboration with Hasselt University and imec's PV module team. Beyond the state of the art module processing, characterization facilities of imec on the EnergyVille campus will provide the student the hands-on access to necessary infrastructure, materials while UHasselt enables access to adapted computing environment and access to supercomputers and the imo-imomec material characterization infrastructure. This topic is part of the core strategy of imec's PV Module & Systems Group and UHasselt's Energy Systems Engineering group located on the Energyville Campus in Genk. 


  • You hold a Master of Science or Engineering in physics, materials sciences, electronics, electro-mechanics. (or equivalent).
  • You have excellent computer skills and can manage data properly, are able to present scientific results, and have excellent reporting skills. A first scientific publication is an asset.
  • You have a strong background/experience in at least two of the following disciplines: material physics, device physics, numerical simulations, finite element modelling, photovoltaics.
  • You have a problem solving attitude and a strong desire to stay up to date with recent developments. You are able to work independently and are eager to take initiative and responsibility.
  • You have the necessary qualities to function within an international team. Very good verbal and written communication skills in English are required, and international experience (Erasmus, internship abroad) is an asset.
  • You are motivated to contribute to the didactic and outreach tasks of the faculty of Engineering Technology and you are able to arouse students' enthusiasm ​

Required background: Master of Science or Engineering in Physics, materials sciences, electronics, electro-mechanics and you have excellent computer skills and can manage data properly, are able to present scientific results, and have excellent reporting skills.

Type of work: 80% modelling, 20% literature

Supervisor: Jef Poortmans

Daily advisor: Arttu Tuomiranta 


The reference code for this position is 2021-076. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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