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Analysis of charge carrier dynamics of ferroelectric nanocomposites for solar energy devices

   School of Engineering and Materials Science

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  Dr J Briscoe  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This post is within the School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS), a large school at QMUL with 70-80 academics and a similar number of postdoctoral research staff. There are around 1,000 undergraduate and taught postgraduate students and 220 PhD students, supported by an administrative and technical staff team of 45 people. The studentship is based in Dr Joe Briscoe’s lab, and the successful candidate will join a team of eight PhD students and three postdoctoral researchers working in his group. Dr Briscoe’s research is focused on developing thin films and nanostructured materials for renewable energy applications, including photovoltaics (PVs), photoelectrocatalysis (PEC) for ‘solar fuels’ and piezoelectric energy harvesting.

This studentship forms part of a recently-awarded, 5-year project in Dr Briscoe’s group funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project aims to develop new routes to high efficiency solar energy conversion – both for PVs and PEC for solar fuels – by producing nanocomposite thin films of ferroelectric and photoactive materials. Ferroelectrics contain a permanent electric dipole,and have been shown to convert sunlight to electricity via a mechanism known as the bulk photovoltaic effect (BPVE). This differs from the mechanism in conventional PVs, and therefore is not subject to the same efficiency limits. In the project ferroelectric nanostructures will be developed that demonstrate a BPVE, which will then be coupled to high efficiency light absorbers to form a new type of solar energy device, aiming to make low-cost and high-efficiency solar energy devices for the future.

In this PhD project, the successful candidate will study the electronic and opto-electronic properties of a range of ferroelectric thin films, nanostructures and nanocomposite films and devices, with a particular focus on the use of transient spectroscopy techniques. The aim of the project will be to build greater understanding of how ferroelectric polarisation interacts with photoexcited charge-carrier dynamics, such as carrier separation and charge transfer to interfacial materials and charge transport layers. This will include studying the integration of ferroelectric materials into devices for PEC and PV applications. The PhD project will be co-supervised by Prof James Durrant, Imperial College London, drawing on Prof Durrant’s substantial expertise in semiconductor photophysics and photochemistry as well as facilities in his lab for transient laser spectroscopy. The project will also involve characterisation of the materials using techniques such as X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, as well as using a brand-new, dedicated atomic force microscope (with piezoresponse force microscopy and photoconductive AFM) in Dr Briscoe’s lab.

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours bachelor’s degree in Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry, or related subjects. Experience or knowledge of functional materials or devices such as semiconductors, ferroelectrics or piezoelectrics, PVs or photocatalysis would be desirable. A master’s degree is also desirable.

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College, which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial research support. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop the skills and attributes needed to manage research and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

This PhD project is therefore an exciting opportunity to be involved in the forefront of development of the next generation of renewable energy technology that could lead to high efficiency and low cost solar energy devices in the future. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop skills in thin film and nanostructure deposition, device fabrication and testing, and nanoscale characterisation and measurements. They will also benefit from involvement in the research groups of both Dr Briscoe and Prof Driscoll, and exposure to the cutting-edge research environments at Queen Mary University of London and The University of Cambridge.

Research Studentship Details

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) applicants must have: 

  • Available to Home applicants only.
  • Full Time programme only.
  • Applicant required to start in September 2022 or January 2023.
  • The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (Currently set for 2021/22 as £17,609).
  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).
  • Please note that this studentship is only available to Home applicants. (See: for details)

Supervisor Contact Details: For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Dr Joe Briscoe (E-mail: [Email Address Removed])

Application Method: To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Materials Science programme (Full Time) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Research degrees in Materials:

Further Guidance:

Please be sure to include a reference to ‘2022 SEMS RSF JB’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.

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