Materials science for solar energy conversion

Through the years, new materials and processes have enabled many innovations in sustainable energy technologies. The study of materials and development of new ones are therefore key research activities for the successful development of solar energy technologies, to either improve power conversion efficiencies, employ sustainable processes or replace the use of critical and toxic materials. At the UT and MESA+ Institute, we have a strong track record in materials science research, with several PIs across faculties focusing on materials for utilization in photovoltaics and solar fuel devices.

Our research covers the whole spectrum, from theory all the way to material implementation in proof-of-concept devices, making it a multidisciplinary research program covering fundamentals and applications. More specifically: Computational materials studies allow us to understand materials properties which help guide material discovery as well as improve materials properties to enhance power conversion efficiencies. Insights from theory are furthermore applied by experimentalists to demonstrate material predictions and explain measured phenomena. On the materials synthesis side, PIs at UT use physical and chemical vapour deposition techniques as well as several chemical synthesis routes to create thin films and nanostructures for in-depth characterization and solar cell implementation. Functional characterization of optical, structural, electronic and electrical properties, is as well an important part of the research at UT. Materials and technologies that are studied at UT include hybrid halide perovskite solar cells, chalcogenide solar absorbers, transparent conducting oxides, metal oxides for photocatalyst, metal nanostructures and luminophores for light management. All this with the common goal of enhancing the utilization of solar energy and enabling the development of high-efficiency PV technologies.

Our vision is to further strengthen these activities in terms of infrastructure and personnel and reach the needed critical mass to be at the forefront of materials science research for solar energy in The Netherlands and abroad. Moreover, our aim is to link our fundamental and applied materials research with device engineering (either at UT or with national and international partners) to demonstrate stable, high efficiency and scalable photo-conversion devices. All this with the goal of achieving sustainable energy devices (e.g. solar cells) using non-critical (abundant) materials and sustainable processes.

For more information, please contact Monica Morales-Masis or Rebecca Saive.