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Tailoring interfaces in Earth abundant thin film solar cells (Advert Reference: RENU19/MPEE/ZOPPI)

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

Project Description

Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 (CZTSSe) is a promising photovoltaic material with outstanding optoelectronic properties and Earth abundant constituents. Among the variety of techniques employed for the preparation of the absorber layer, solution-based deposition and processing has the potential to provide low-cost scalable routes to produce photovoltaic devices with high efficiency. Such results include the current record efficiency for CZTSSe solar cells at 12.6 % using hydrazine-solution based method. On the other hand, nanoparticle inks offer an alternative to avoid using the highly toxic and potentially explosive solvent, hydrazine. Deposited from the Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) nanoparticle inks, the CZTS precursor thin films annealed in the presence of Se can provide devices with efficiency up to 9.5%.
Northumbria has recently developed a route for fabricating and controlling the electronic and structural properties of nanoparticle inks. Upon heat treatment a dense and compact film is formed that can be used to fabricate solar cells with efficiencies approaching 7% on rigid substrate or a bit less if we use flexible foils. Our attention now focuses on the interfaces within the solar cell structure and particularly the pn junction.

The key aim of this project is to develop single/multilayer n-type buffer layers using indium/cadmium/zinc sulphide and zinc/titanium oxide to increase device performance for both rigid and flexible structures. During the study you will be in control of the complete fabrication processes (nanoparticle inks, thin film and solar cells) and will have access to a wide range of characterisation techniques and recently refurbished laboratories. You will also work closely with one of our partners, TescanUK, to observe the layers nano/microstructure and chemical composition while performing in-situ microscopy-stress tests (for example bending of flexible films, heat treatment of the pn junction). This project is suitable for a candidate with strong interest in semiconductor and device fabrication as well as spectroscopy and microscopy.

About CDT ReNU
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. The overall aim of ReNU is to create a pipeline of highly skilled doctoral graduates in the areas of small-scale renewable and sustainable distributed energy that will drive UK productivity and innovation in the future. The scope of ReNU focuses on materials for energy conversion, storage and efficiency, while at the same time taking a whole systems view of the energy sector. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project described below 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.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• 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.
• Academic excellence in an appropriate subject area relevant to proposed project.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
• The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria ( you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference RENU19/MPEE/ZOPPI will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 8 March 2019
Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students from the UK and EU, which covers full fees, and a full stipend*, paid for four years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa).

*Stipend available to UK students only


1. X. Xu, Y. Qu, V. Barrioz, G. Zoppi and N. S. Beattie, CZTS Reducing series resistance in Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 nanoparticle ink solar cells on flexible molybdenum foil substrates, RSC Advances 8 (2018) 3470-3476

2. S. Campbell, Y. Qu, L. Bowen, P. Chapon, V. Barrioz, N. S. Beattie and G. Zoppi, Influence of OLA and FA ligands on the optical and electronic properties of Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 thin films and solar cells prepared from nanoparticle inks, Solar Energy, 175 (2018) 101-109.

3. N. S. Beattie, P. See, G. Zoppi, P. Ushasree, M. Duchamp, I. Farrer, D. Ritchie, and S. Tomic, Quantum engineering an additional energy gap in InAs/GaAs intermediate band solar cells, ACS Photonics 4 (2017) 2745-2750.

4. Y. Qu, G. Zoppi, S. Jourdain, L. M. Peter, and N. S. Beattie, Enhanced external quantum efficiency from Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 solar cells prepared from nanoparticle inks, Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, 57 (2018), 08RC01

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