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Ferroelectric solar cells for Terra Watt electricity generation

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 08, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Electricity generation on a large Terra Watt scale requires solar cells that consist of abundant, non-toxic and cheap materials. Materials selection has been inspired by geological minerals, such as Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) and Sb2Se3. CZTS in particular has received widespread attention. Despite this the maximum efficiency is only 12.6%, significantly below the 20% threshold required for commercial viability.

In this project we look to Nature for alternative solutions, this time in the form of ferroelectric minerals, such as enargite (Cu2AsS4) and bournonite (CuPbSbS3). Uniquely these materials possess an internal electric field, which can be exploited to enhance the electric current extracted from a solar cell. The potential for photoferroic minerals has been highlighted in a recent theoretical study, although there are as yet no experimental reports on devices. This project is a unique opportunity to carry out and learn from the device growth and characterisation expertise at both Durham and Northumbria. It will provide the student a comprehensive training programme in solar cell research, ranging from material synthesis, device electrical testing to materials characterisation using electron microscopy (SEM, TEM, cathodoluminescence).

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU) is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities, for example in business, innovation and internationalisation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training. The start date is 1st October 2019.

For this project you must apply through the Durham University’s online postgraduate application system by creating an account. To do this please navigate to https://www.dur.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/ and select ‘Apply now’ followed by ‘Apply for postgraduate study.’ When completing your application, please ensure that you note that you are applying for the appropriate ReNU project by completing the application fields as follows:

Course details
• Select ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Have you been in contact with a potential supervisor?’
• Complete the ‘intended supervisor’s name’ with ReNU/Mendis
• Complete Physics as the Department
Funding
• Select ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Have you applied, or are you going to apply for a scholarship?
• Select ‘other’ from the drop-down list under, ‘Please indicate which scholarship you have applied for’
• Complete ‘Please enter the name of the Scholarship you have applied for or will be applying for’ with ReNU/Mendis
Note that it is not necessary to include a research proposal as part of your application.

The application closing date is Friday 8th March and it is planned that interviews will take place on the week of the 18th March.

Applicants are normally expected to have one of:
• A minimum of an upper second class honours degree from a 4-year integrated Masters undergraduate course in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science or a related subject.
• A 3-year undergraduate Bachelors in one of the above disciplines plus a Masters degree and/or one year experience in a relevant industry.
We particularly encourage UK applications from those traditionally under-represented in STEM subjects, such as women and mature students.

Funding Notes

The studentship and covers tuition fees and an annual living allowance of £15,009 (at the 2019/20 Home/EU rate) and significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges). Please note that EU students must meet UKRI eligibility criteria (View Website) and that studentships will not cover tuition fees for overseas fees status students. Note that up to 4 offers of a PhD place will be made for the 6 ReNU CDT projects advertised by Durham University.

How good is research at Durham University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 74.55

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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