Engineering Materials and Applications
Engineering Materials & Applications (EMAP)
The Engineering Materials & Applications (EMAP) research group focuses on developing innovative solutions to successfully bridge the gap between fundamental research and industrially compatible products and processes. This is done in a wide range of fields, from materials physics and chemistry to electronics, electromechanics and electrochemistry. Cooperation with industrial partners plays a crucial role in the EMAP research group.
The research group includes various subgroups with specific and complementary expertise, which work closely together and operate within the spearhead domains of Hasselt University's Institute for Materials Research (IMO). Moreover, the EMAP research group is affiliated with the IMEC associated laboratory "IMOMEC". The main activities are focused on:
- Sensors for advanced diagnostics
- Printing and spray coating of functional layers
- Electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems
- Lifespan and integration of PV cells and modules
- Modelling of the energy output of PV systems
- Thin-film and tandem solar cells
The research group regularly acts as a partner in various European, Flemish, national and international research programmes and networks and has a long tradition of joint research and service provision with industry and research centres.
The expertise groups within EMAP are:
Biomedical Device Engineering (BDE): Prof. dr. ir. Ronald Thoelen.
In the field of advanced diagnostics, the Biomedical Device Engineering group focuses on research into the development of 'specific' measurement platforms that can process the signals from sensors with sufficient precision and speed to translate any impedance, thermal or optical biosensor into a fully functional point-of-care system. The applied research is done in close cooperation with the industry and is applied in various fields, ranging from health (care) to food industry.
Functional Materials Engineering (FME): Prof. dr. ir. Wim Deferme.
Using various printing and coating techniques, such as inkjet, screen printing or ultrasonic spray coating, functional inks and coatings can be deposited on a wide range of substrates (from glass and foils to textiles and paper) in the FME group. The materials deposited can be conductive for use as interconnects, RFID antennas or electrodes for opto-electronic applications. Other inks and coatings may have the property of absorbing light and can be used for the development of organic solar cells in combination with the abovementioned conductive electrodes. Light-emitting layers are also deposited and can be used to emit light by means of an electric voltage. In addition to research on organic electronics, the focus is on printed sensors for measuring body (or wound) parameters such as temperature, moisture content and pH. Finally, research is also being conducted into stretchable electronics using liquid metals and the 3D shaping of hybrid electronics.
Electrochemical Engineering (EE): Prof. dr. ir. Momo Safari.
Research in the Electrochemical Engineering (EE) group is focused on the fundamental engineering aspects of electrochemical systems such as advanced batteries, electrolysers and fuel cells. The group's research philosophy is to link experiment and theory to provide in-depth understanding and development of electrochemical energy storage and conversion systems. The aim is to correlate the intrinsic material properties, formulation, processing and microstructure of the electrode and electrolyte components with performance and ageing data from the control system. Applications of this research include in-depth analysis of electrochemical performance, optimisation of electrode/electrolyte formulations, end-of-life testing/simulations and the development of physics-based models/algorithms for device control and charge/health state prediction.
Energy Systems Management (ESM): Prof. Dr. ir. Michaël Daenen and Prof. dr. Ivan Gordon (a.i).
The determination of the energy yield of solar panels in a wide range of applications is central here. Within EnergyVille, the team from imec and UHasselt is working on a physics-based model for predicting the energy yield. For this, the team relies on fundamental material knowledge from the other PV teams and integrates knowledge of semiconductor materials into thermo-mechanical stress in integrated applications. The simulation framework is continuously expanded with knowledge on new technologies such as bifacial solar cells, thin-film solar cells and tandem solar cells. In addition, the system is continuously extended to integrated power electronics.
PhotoVoltaic Cells and Modules (PVCM): Prof. dr. ir. Michaël Daenen and dr. Loïc Tous.
The PV cell and module team studies and develops state-of-the-art production techniques and solar cell technologies that will be used in the modules of the future. The focus here is on cooperation with industry with a view to integrating solar cells into applications. The team has all state-of-the-art tools for the production and analysis of the PV modules of the future.
The different topics that are studied are:
- Reliability of interconnections and metallisation
- Thermo-mechanical stress in modules: simulation and validation
- Integration of new cell and interconnection techniques
- Integrated PV in VIPV, BIPV, IIPV and AgriPV
Thin Film PhotoVoltaics (TFPV): Prof. dr. Bart Vermang and dr. Tom Aernouts.
Thin-film solar cells are often not yet known to the wider public. But they have special properties that offer new possibilities for the easier application of solar energy. They are lightweight and can be applied not only to glass but also to plastic films, for example. This allows them to cover curved surfaces, such as roof tiles but also car roofs. Moreover, thin-film solar cells can also be made transparent, so that they can be installed in windows.
In this research group, we study different materials that can be used in such solar cells, such as chalcogenides and perovskites. We also study the different processes needed to deposit these materials on large surfaces. This ranges from printing or coating processes for liquids, to sputtering and evaporation techniques. The electrical properties are also characterised and modelled, and laser techniques are used to connect solar cells together, with minimal losses.
They can also be stacked on top of each other to obtain so-called tandem structures with even higher efficiency. Here, combinations of perovskites and chalcogenides are investigated, as well as combinations with silicon solar cells.
Finally, the thin film materials are examined how they can be used to make green synthetic fuels, for example to generate hydrogen or (m-)ethanol.