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Modeling of silicon pillars that use solar energy to produce hydrogen

With global energy consumption rising and reserves of conventional energy sources such as coal and oil diminishing, we will inevitably have to switch more and more to renewable energy sources. The sun is an energy source with great potential in this respect: the global energy consumption is almost negligible compared to the amount of solar energy that irradiates the land masses on earth. However the sun is not always shining, while there is always energy consumption. Before solar energy can replace most of the fossil fuels, a way has to be found to store the energy harvested from the sun on a large scale. A promising option for this is storing the energy in a chemical bond: the solar energy can be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen and oxygen. They can be converted back to water to produce the electricity when needed.

Therefore we are developing devices where hydrogen can be produced at the surface of a 'solar cell'. This silicon cell is structured with micropillars, such that more surface area is available for light absorption and reaction. In these pillars the p-n junction is formed so that they work as small solar cells. We want to optimize the geometry of these pillars so that they absorb even more light and generate even higher currents and voltages.


The student will perform numerical modelling of the electrical and optical behaviour of the micropillars.

The student will use his knowledge of optics and semiconductor physics and combine analytical and computational modeling (including some programming) to explain experimental data and reach an advise on a good device layout.


If you are interested in this modeling assignment and expect that it fits your background, please contact Pieter Westerik, PhD student at the MCS group: p.j.westerik