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Solar energy security in polluted and non-ideal environments

   Department of Engineering

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  Dr Chris Groves  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

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 2022.

This PhD will develop novel solar cells optimised for low light, polluted, urban, under water and extraterritorial environments. Modern solar cells are optimised for an idealised solar spectra which one would find under near perfect atmospheric conditions at midday in the USA. However, the majority of humanity lives in locations where the solar spectra is significantly different from this idealised form, such as more northerly/southerly locations or where the atmosphere has been changed by man-made/natural pollutants. This work aims to dramatically accelerate the adoption of low carbon solar energy by developing economically viable device stacks which are specifically tuned to harvest light in non-ideal environments.

The successful candidate will combine experimentation with state-of-the-art numerical device modelling to develop novel light harvesting structures. The candidate will have the opportunity to develop custom computer codes (Python or other languages) to understand/model device performance from a fundamental physics/materials science perspective. Alongside the simulation work, the candidate will develop lab skills to enable the fabrication of these novel devices.  Outdoor testing in real world environments will be performed throughout the project. Thus, a broad skill set and and above all enthusiasm for experimentation, coding/simulation and practical engineering would be desirable.

The project is supervised by Dr Roderick Mackenzie and Prof Chris Groves. For informal enquiries please contact [Email Address Removed].

The application closing date is 6th May 2022 and interviews will take place later in the month. Please note that interviews will be online rather than in person due to COVID-19.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Our eligibility requirements are:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

•      If required, an IELTS score of 6.5 with no component under 6.0.

·      Two satisfactory academic references.

•      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Durham or elsewhere.

You must apply through the University’s online application portal - Home · Application Portal (

  • Create an account and click ‘Postgraduate Apply’ on the top ribbon.
  • Search for ‘EPSRC CDT’ in Course and select Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (EPSRC CDT) starting in 2022/23. 
  • Complete the application form, ensuring the following:
  • On the funding tab select ‘yes’ you are applying for a scholarship, select ‘Other’, write RENU/Mackenzie in the name of the scholarship, and select 1st October 2022 as the start date. No scholarship documents are required.
  • On the project course details tab write RENU/Mackenzie in Field of Study.
  • Please include an application letter summarising your motivation and suitability for the project.
  • Please ensure you follow all of these steps to ensure your application is considered.


Funding notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International students, and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2020/21 full time study, this was £15,609 pa) and full tuition fees. Also, significant additional funding is included to cover research costs and local, national and international travel such as conferences and exchanges. Note that these studentships will be awarded on a competitive basis between projects. We anticipate that up to 5 awards will be made for projects hosted at Durham. 

Please note there are a limited number of full international scholarships available. Further information about how EPSRC classifies international fee status please see Annex B of UKRI-170821-TrainingGrantTermsConditionsGuidance-Aug2021.pdf

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