Abstract : The energy density functional (EDF) formalism is the tool of choice for large-scale low-energy nuclear structure calculations both for stable experimentally known nuclei whose properties are accurately reproduced and systems that are only theoretically predicted. We highlight in the present dissertation the capability of EDF methods to tackle exotic phenomena appearing at the very limits of stability, that is the formation of nuclear halos. We devise a new quantitative and model-independent method that characterizes the existence and properties of halos in medium- to heavy-mass nuclei, and quantifies the impact of pairing correlations and the choice of the energy functional on the formation of such systems. These results are found to be limited by the predictive power of currently-used EDFs that rely on fitting to known experimental data. In the second part of this dissertation, we initiate the construction of non-empirical EDFs that make use of the new paradigm for vacuum nucleon-nucleon interactions set by so-called low-momentum interactions generated through the application of renormalization group techniques. These soft-core vacuum potentials are used as a stepstone of a long-term strategy which connects modern many-body techniques and EDF methods. We provide guidelines for designing several non-empirical models that include in-medium many-body effects at various levels of approximation, and can be handled in state-of-the art nuclear structure codes. In the present work, the first step is initiated through the adjustement of an operatorial representation of low-momentum vacuum interactions using a custom-designed parallel evolutionary algorithm. The first results highlight the possibility to grasp most of the relevant physics for low-energy nuclear structure using this numerically convenient gaussian vertex.