PhD Position in Integrated System on Chip Design for Tactile Sensing in Robotics in Zürich

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100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Micro- and Nanosystems (MNS) Group at D-MAVT has developed a miniaturized pressure sensor in a matrix configuration that wraps around a robotic finger on a flexible PCB. In cooperation with the Integrated Systems Laboratory (IIS) the tactile sensor matrix has been characterized with discrete electronics. This approach shows limitations in read-out speed per sensor, sensitivity level, and the number of sensors in the matrix. Also, discrete electronics cannot reach then required degree of miniaturization. The MNS Group and IIS have therefore teamed up with the Robotics System Lab. to develop a robotic gripper with a dedicated integrated system on chip combined supporting the tactile sensor on each finger in an ETH project that has been granted.

The IIS is looking for PhD student to realize the integrated circuit design part and the processing for feature extraction in the above project.

Project background

Haptic-based sensing in robotics has been limited by not only a lack of a miniaturized and integrated technology equivalent to the human skin but also by the complexity of processing the large amount of data that fine-grained tactile sensors provide. However, recent advances in integrated circuits and fabrication techniques (flexible electronics, portable and energy-efficient GPUs) along with large-scale data-driven paradigms (deep learning, reinforcement learning) pave the road towards new possibilities in perceptive mobile manipulation in general, but especially haptic-based manipulation. This project aims to make a leap in the state-of-the-art tactile sensing for robotics, specifically for robotic grippers, and to employ the new capabilities to allow for advanced robotic manipulation.

Job description

In a first phase of the project you will be responsible for the realization of an analog front-end including a signal source, an amplification stage and an ADC for the capacitive tactile sensor. This comprises the concept, design, and layout of an integrated circuit and it's characterization in the lab. You will use state-of-the art EDA tools for this purpose and enjoy the support of the Microelectronics Design Center of the Department.

In a second phase the ASIC front-end will be used to capture a vast amount of data from an improved version of the tactile sensor. In order to extract the desired features his data must be reduced by digital signal processing algorithms including processing with neural networks in cooperation with the project partners. Then, the most promissing algorithms with respect to hardware implementation will be chosen and implemented with a corresponding hardware architecture with the help on the Microelectronic Design Center.

Your profile
  • MSc in electrical engineering
  • Solid foundations in integrated circuit design (analog and digital), signal processing, hardware and embedded software design
  • Strong interest in laboratory experiments and prototype building
  • Independent working, yet likes to collaborate in an intedisciplinary team
Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer
  • Multi-facetted research work in an interdisciplinary project
  • Continued education program
  • Small team with dedicated mentoring
  • Excellent infrastructure, working environment and well paid position
We value diversity
In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Motivation Letter
  • CV
  • Certified Transcripts (University Studies)

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about the Integrated Systems Laboratory and the Departement of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering of ETH Zurich can be found on our websites and, respectively. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Thomas Burger by email (no applications).

About ETH Zürich
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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