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  Ultrafast Spectroscopy of Novel Semiconductors and Devices

   School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE)

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  Dr Michael Nielsen  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

PhD opportunity at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

The School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) is widely regarded as the one of the leading Photovoltaics research hubs in the world. Building on its world-leading research, the school attracts leading international researchers in the area of photovoltaic, consistently ranked amongst the leaders worldwide in the photovoltaic field through international peer review. It is one of the nine schools within the Faculty of Engineering at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia and grew out of the Australian Research Council Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence in response to the growing photovoltaic and renewable energy industry.

This project focuses on the photophysics of novel semiconductors and devices, particularly the interactions between electrons/excitons and phonons/vibrational modes after the absorption of a photon through the use of ultrafast spectroscopy. Since the development of ultrafast pulsed laser technologies, ultrafast optical spectroscopy has become a powerful family of techniques to characterise both bulk semiconductor materials and their interfaces, as well as optoelectronic devices. Ultrafast spectroscopy can be likened to old fashioned strobe photography, albeit at a billion-fold better time resolution, wherein very fast processes/events are monitored by freezing in time a series of frames which when reconstructed give a picture of the electronic dynamics triggered by optical absorption. This family of techniques uses sequential ultrashort light pulses, usually in the femtosecond regime, to study/monitor photoinduced dynamical processes. Topics include hot carriers for wavelength tuneable photodetection, photocatalysis and photovoltaics, the effect of phase and lattice distortion on electron-phonon interactions in perovskites for perovskite optoelectronics, quantum confined structures for phonon cavities, and for studying new materials for advanced solar cells. Other potential topics include studying up/down conversion with molecular systems for high efficiency photovoltaics.

SPREEs Research Activities

UNSW has been responsible for developing the most successfully commercialised new photovoltaic technology internationally. Most of the solar cell technology that dominates the market (in particular the ‘PERC’ design) was invented and developed here. Currently there are a wide range of activities in the school spanning novel processing techniques for improved performance of commercial silicon cells, advanced characterisation techniques, integrating silicon with novel materials for the development of multi-junction solar cells, as well as advanced concepts for totally new approaches to photovoltaic and other energy producing device designs.


Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering, Physics or Materials Science or similar. Overall GPA must be at least 80% or equivalent.

Masters Degree: Priority will be given for those who graduated from a Masters by research program, with a strong semiconductor physics emphasis, can be theoretical or experimental focused. Overall GPA must be at least 80% or equivalent.

Prior research experience is considered key for competitive scholarships for international students.

Please contact Dr Michael Nielsen ([Email Address Removed]) for further information or visit the group website For your application please also attach the following documents: CV, academic transcript, and your motivation for doctoral studies. Please include how you feel your background potential aligns with the project.

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Suitable students will be awarded a full scholarship for 3.5 years (PhD duration inAustralia is typically 3-3.5 years) via the competitive UNSW RTPi scholarshipcompetition. The scholarship fully covers university fees and provides a stipend tocover living costs (currently ~ AUD 35,000 per year). There is also a conferenceattendance allowance to support attending a scientific international conferenceduring the PhD. Additional financial support may be available from success incompetitive external funding rounds for exceptional candidates.
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