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One-dimensional Polymer Platform for Indoor Light Harvesting (Ref: Renu20-09)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

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 2020.

Self-powered and self-aware systems of interconnected devices are the technological embodiment of sustainability. It is therefore crucial to find an energy source that yields high efficiencies in ambient environment. To address this important issue, ambient light photovoltaics
have to be adapted to realise autonomous IoT devices, capable of machine learning. The ambient light photovoltaics of choice are dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) and perovskite solar cells (PSCs), as their absorption spectrum can be optimized and adapted for any ambient light conditions. Fast charge separation in a variety of organic dyes and tuneable energy levels in perovskites allow hybrid light harvesting systems to maintain a high photovoltage under ambient light. As a result, Hybrid Solar Cells outperform with efficiencies of over 35% the organic photovoltaics as well as silicon and thin-film GaAs technology under ambient lighting.

Barriers to widespread adoption of hybrid solar technology, such as reliability and coupling with storage remain. This PhD project will address these challenges by focusing on materials responsible for charge-transport in solar cells, which are critical to both stability and power generation. Here, state-of-the-art materials in hybrid solar cells such as Spiro-OMeTAD require the addition of metal ions to oxidize the material in order to maximize charge transport and achieve optimum performance. These ions are mobile and eventually migrate to the absorber interface, increasing surface recombination and degrading the performance of the device in the long term. In order to address this, this project will explore the synthesis, characterization and application in devices of coordination polymers (CPs). Their structure is based on easily-manipulatable building blocks of abundant and non-toxic metals, e.g. Cu, Fe, Ni, linked together by a non-metal backbone which controls their energy, morphology, and solubility. These molecular wires have excellent electrical conductivity and can be finely tuned to extract maximum power from state-of-the-art light absorbers more easily than metal-free materials used currently and are less sensitive to air and humidity. Critically, these novel hole transporters are inherently stable and will lead to significant increases in device stability, currently a clear commercialization barrier for the technology.

This project is supervised by Dr Marina Freitag. For enquiries about the project, please contact .

How to apply:
Applicant should include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and include the advert reference number.

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system at You will need to:
• Insert the programme code 8208F in the programme of study section
• Select PhD Energy Materials as the programme of study
• Insert the advert reference number (e.g. renu20-02) in the studentship/partnership reference field
• Attach a covering letter and CV, quote code (e.g. renu20-02), and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
• Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 1st Class (Hons) or 2:1; or a Masters (preference for Merit or above) in an appropriate subject area.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Newcastle University of elsewhere.

Funding Notes

The studentship covers full Home fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rates (for 2019/20, this was £15,009 pa). Also significant additional funding to cover research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges).

Please note that the scholarship award is set at the Home/EU level of fees. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award. Note that up to 4 offers of a PhD place will be made for the ReNU CDT projects advertised by Newcastle University.

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