PhD Position Particle Free Contactless Wafer Handling

Research / Academic

The fast and accurate handling, transportation, and positioning of thin, sensitive substrates, such as Si-wafers, solar cells, and flat panel display glass panels are all core operations in production and manufacturing systems in high-tech industry, and substrate handling systems can be found everywhere in this industry.
Every mechanical contact between system components that are in relative movement increases the risk of wear of these components and the release of wear particles in the system, and every mechanical contact between handling system and substrate increases the risk of contamination, damage, or even breakage of said substrate, all of which need to be avoided. And yet, in current substrate handling systems found in industry mechanical contact is prevalent, with the unavoidable resulting contamination of the substrates that are being handled.
In this research project we will develop new concepts for future handling systems for Si-wafers in close collaboration with our industrial partner, VDL-ETG, an important OEM supplier in the world-leading Dutch high-tech industry. These systems will handle Si-wafers without mechanical contact whenever possible, and when unavoidable, make sure that the mechanical contact is without damage or contamination. At TU Delft, a novel, air bearing based contactless handling concept is being developed in which a thin pressurized air film carries, moves and accurately positions substrates relative to the carrying system. First results show the potential to carry, transport and position thin substrates without any mechanical contact.
In this project you will study and develop this new concept to be used in an innovative, new, contactless end-effector for a wafer handling SCARA robot. Additional challenges are to add the thermal conditioning of the wafer and the pre-alignment of the wafer to the features of this end-effector. Key steps in this research are the understanding and optimization of the air flow in the thin lubricating film between system and substrate to generate the required viscous traction on the substrate and thus control its position, while at the same time controlling the viscous heat loss.
You will work on the numerical modelling of the contactless handling concept, and use the results to guide the design steps for the new end-effector. The constrained space that is available to pick and place wafers in the storage needs to be considered in this development. Essential in this research is also the experimental validation of the numerical results. So, besides this numerical modelling (based on Reynolds’ equation) the design and realisation of lab-scale validation tests are part of the activities by the PhD-student.
This project is part of a larger project, in which three PhD-students are working on different aspects of the design of a new wafer handling system. The other PhD-students are working on the development of new (meta-)materials that are save when they collide in mechanical contact (less particles generated), and new design methods that use compliant machine elements to eliminate sliding surfaces. The three PhD-students will be working closely together; however, each PhD-student is responsible for a clearly defined subset of the overall project.
For some background information on this concept and other research activities in our Mechatronic System Design group, please visit:


  • MSc university degree in mechanical or mechatronics engineering.
  • Strong interest in theoretical and practical aspects of mechanical design, modelling and manufacturing.
  • Team player with strong communication skills.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Salary Benefits:

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.
Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.
The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.
For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

Work Hours:

38 - 40 hours per week


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