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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M006360/1
Title: Long-Range Charge and Energy Transfer at Heterojunctions for Photovoltaics Beyond the Shockley-Queisser Limit
Principal Investigator: Rao, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Eight19 Ltd
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 March 2015 Ends: 29 February 2020 Value (£): 1,036,928
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Oct 2014 Eng Fellowship interviews 6 and 7 October 2014 Announced
20 Aug 2014 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 20 August 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The development of high-efficiency low-cost renewable energy sources is one of the most pressing research challenges today. Two promising technologies in this area are photovoltaics (PV) and Solar Fuel generation systems. PV work by absorbing sunlight to generate electrical charges that are then collected in an external circuit. Solar Fuel systems work by absorbing sunlight and then using the charges produced to drive redox chemistry to produce chemical fuels from readily available starting materials, for example splitting water to produce H2, which is a powerful fuel.

But the cost to efficiency ratio of both these technologies is too high currently. In order to drive the price of these technologies down to match fossil fuels, fundamental breakthroughs are required in the way these systems harness solar energy. This project seeks to tackle this challenge by building on recent insights into quantum mechanical processes in organic semiconductors to improve the efficiency both of current and future PV systems as well as put in place new design ruled for high-efficiency solar fuel generation systems.

At the heart of many kinds of PV and Solar Fuel systems are interfaces between organic and inorganic semiconductors. The role of these interfaces, known as heterojunctions, is to separate opposite charges, hole and electrons, from each other and prevent their recombination. We will use the latest breakthroughs in ultrafast laser spectroscopy to study these interfaces and develop novel structure that efficiently separate charges.

The biggest energy loss in PV is a process known as thermalization. This refers to the fact that the absorption of a high-energy photon generates one electron-hole pair just as the absorption of a low-energy photon does. The extra energy of high-energy photons above the bandgap is lost as heat. This problem affects all commercially deployed PV today and has long been considered a fundamental loss. Indeed it leads to what is known as the Shockley-Queisser limit on efficiency, which is 33% for an idea PV of bandgap 1.1eV. Here we will use a unique quantum mechanical process in organic semiconductors called Singlet Exciton Fission, to overcome this loss. Singlet Fission allows two electron-hole pairs to be generated in certain organic materials when a photon is absorbed. We will design new ways by which these electron-hole pairs can be harvested at the organic/inorganic interface, leading to improved efficiencies. The methods and structures we will develop using this process would be compatible both with current and future PV technologies, allowing them to over come the Shockley-Queisser limit on efficiency. This could dramatically improve the efficiency of PV and help bring about their wide scale deployment.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk