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  Development of Light Harvesting Structures for Photovoltaic Applications

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr L Danos  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


Light harvesting is the process by which the absorption ability of the photosynthetic reaction complex increases significantly via a series of excitation energy transfer steps from an array of pigments surrounding the reaction centre. A strong dipole-dipole interaction and a significant spectral overlap between the pigments are important for efficient energy transfer before the excitation energy gets lost in other dissipative processes. The key consideration in the design of light-harvesting structures is to maintain a close intermolecular separation for a high efficiency excitation energy transfer while minimising self-quenching of fluorescence or non-radiative energy dissipation, which is common in dye containing solutions. This challenge has been effectively addressed by using molecular organised assemblies in the form of dye doped polymer films, dye coated polystyrene spheres, and Langmuir-Blodgett films.

The proposed research aims to develop a light harvesting structure as a means of a long-range energy collection and transport. The application of light harvesting structures for the photosensitisation of silicon solar cells or in use with Luminescent Solar Concentrators (LSC) can significantly reduce the amount of silicon used and lead to the development of high efficiency low-cost solar cells.

Project description

A 3.5 year fully funded PhD studentship (fees paid, stipend £16,602 p.a. tax free) in the areas of spectroscopy and energy materials is available in Lancaster University.

The key challenge of this research is to design and fabricate efficient light harvesting structures which can be deposited onto solid substrates as thin films. The molecular structures will be based on perylene or porphyrin derivatives which we have developed in our lab. In particular, the efficiency of excitation energy transfer in organised molecular films will be studied with the aim to achieve high donor to acceptor ratios (100:1) with efficient energy transfer efficiencies similar to photosynthesis. The structures will be studied with time-resolved fluorescence microscopy to determine energy transfer and photon collection efficiencies.  

Specific objectives

•            Development of light harvesting structures based on molecular aggregates using different architectures (for example: polymer-dye blends, microspheres decorated with dyes, Langmuir-Blodgett Films, etc) to achieve high efficiency in excitation energy transfer.

•            Characterisation of the light harvesting structures with state-of-the-art steady state and time-resolved fluorescence imaging microscopy.

•            Modelling of excitation energy transfer and estimation of energy transfer efficiencies based on analytical models. 

This PhD is an excellent opportunity to gain academic research experience and training will be provided in a wide range of cutting-edge characterisation techniques. Training will be provided in X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, time resolved fluorescence spectroscopy, and lifetime imaging using confocal microscopy for the application in light harvesting structures.  


Applicants will hold, or expect to receive, a 1st class or 2:1 UK Masters-level or BSc degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science, and possess theoretical and practical skills commensurate with a science-based undergraduate degree programme. Possession of an A level in maths is desirable. Candidates with a 2:2 may be considered if they can demonstrate excellent research skills in their application and references.

The successful candidate will demonstrate a strong interest in spectroscopy and experimental physical chemistry, enthusiasm to work in a laboratory environment, willingness to learn, a collaborative attitude, and good written and oral communication skills.

How to apply (Please read carefully)

Lefteris Danos ( welcomes informal email enquiries before submitting an application ([Email Address Removed]). Please note that we cannot receive applications by email as they must be processed centrally.

Applications should be made via Lancaster University’s online application system (

Please indicate on your application that you are applying for this funded PhD project by declaring the title of the advertisement and this reference number [CHEM005] where prompted. You may use the project description as your research proposal to apply for this studentship.

Funding Details

The studentship will cover fees at the UK rate plus the standard maintenance stipend.

It may also fully or partially contribute to the fees and stipend of a self-funded international candidate, though it is advised that you enquire regarding this before applying.

Deadline: 31st July 2022

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position may be filled when a suitable candidate has been identified ahead of the deadline.

Key words

physical, spectroscopy, energy materials, photovoltaics.

Chemistry (6)

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 About the Project