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Stable high-efficiency materials for solar cells (physics)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Emyr Macdonald
    Dr M Elliott
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Over the last five years, research effort in developing perovskite mixed-halide solar cells has increased rapidly, making it one of the fastest growing areas in science. Observed power conversion efficiencies of 20% have led to spin-off companies racing to produce commercial modules. The most severe challenge to such commercialisation is the rapid degradation the material suffers. Even state-of-the-art encapsulation has not led to long-lived performance to date. A second environmental challenge is the dependence on incorporated lead in the materials for high efficiency.
Understanding the factors influencing both the observed high efficiencies and the degradation pathways in such mixed-halide perovskites is important for sustained progress. Some of the factors that have been recognised as key to their remarkable efficiency are suitable bandgaps, spin-orbit coupling, local electrical polarisation of the lattice which eases separation of electrons and holes and the lineup of conduction and valence bands with the Fermi energies of commonly employed electrode materials. See Frost et al, Nano Letters 14,
2584 (2014) for a good discussion of these effects. Given the severity of the degradation of these popular mixed halideperovskites,
an alternative route is to search for other material systems having similar properties to the perovskite materials, but inherently more stable, and based on earth-abundant elements not having the toxicity of lead. Detailed electronic structure calculations point to the promise of a semiconducting ferroelectric class of materials which lend themselves conveniently to pulsed laser deposition (PLD).
The successful student will undertake deposition of thin films of these materials using PLD and evaluating these with solar simulators, scanning probe microscopies, x-ray diffraction and optical spectroscopies. This project involves a collaboration between Physics and Engineering in Cardiff and a Theoretical Chemistry group at the University of Bath. The project is an exciting opportunity to develop materials with potential for significant technological and environmental benefits, involving advanced experimental and computational techniques in materials science.

Funding Notes

This project is available to students applying for funded PhD studentships and may be altered or withdrawn.
Studentships will be awarded to successful applicants from all applications received. Applicants must satisfy RCUK residency rules for the full studentship.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

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

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