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Artificial photosynthesis: growing hybrid Si nanostructures for hydrogen photoproduction

ABG-91026 Job Junior
2020-03-26 Fixed-term 24 Month > €35,000 and < €45,000 annual gross
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Grenoble - Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes - France
Materials science
  • Chemistry
  • Energy
photocatalysis, nanowire, synthesis, hydrogen, solar energy
Research and Development


CEA is the leading public research institution in energy research in France. With a 16,000 employee task force, CEA conducts its research activities from the most fundamental level to industrial transfer around its 4 main expertise domains: low carbon energies, defense and security, and health and communication technologies. The present project takes place in the fundamental research institute IRIG at Grenoble. 

Position and assignments

Turning sun energy directly into a storable fuel, also called “artificial photosynthesis”, is a dreamed-of objective of primary importance to deal with the intermittency of renewable energies. Such photocatalytic devices usually rely on light absorption by a semiconductor yielding separated charges (as in photovoltaic cells). The electrons  flow towards a reduction catalyst (as part of the photocathode) that turns a feed such as CO2 and/or H+ into a fuel, while holes move to the (photo)anode for oxygen evolution from water. The size of the semiconductor should be small (nano) to avoid charge recombination. Tuning the proper semiconductor-catalyst pair is also of prime importance for maximizing photon capture and photon-to-chemicals yield, as well as optimizing the porosity of the composite for proper feed and fuel diffusion.

This postdoctoral fellowship is part of the Sun-to-X European project involving 9 international partners from academia and industry, starting early June. The global aim of the project is to produce a carbon-neutral liquid fuel from the intermediate production of hydrogen from solar energy, with a 1m2 artificial photosynthesis cell as a demonstrator. The CEA partner in Grenoble is in charge of the design of a hybrid photocathode based on p-doped silicon nanowires as the semiconductor absorbing the red and infrared part of the solar spectrum, and platinum-free electrocatalysts as the hydrogen evolution catalyst.

The post-doctoral research fellow will design the optimal hybrid architecture, and synthesize and characterize the photocathode. He/she will then associate the photocathode in an artificial leaf with a photoanode absorbing blue and ultraviolet light for oxygen evolution, developed by international partners. She/he will insure partnership follow-up and reporting within the consortium. He/she will work within two research groups of CEA Grenoble: one specialized in nanomaterial synthesis and advanced characterization, and the other in electro- and photoelectro catalysis for hydrogen evolution. Advanced characterization means (XPS, EDX, SEM, TEM, FIB-SEM) will be made available depending on results.

Geographic mobility:



The candidate holds a PhD in chemistry, electrochemistry and/or materials science, with a keen interest for innovation and collaborative work in a widely international environment.  Skills in photoelectrochemistry and/or nanocharacterization will be considered as a plus.

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