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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Z531303/1
Title: Princeton-Oxford-Cambridge Centre-to-Centre Collaboration on Soft Functional Energy Materials
Principal Investigator: Sirringhaus, Professor H
Other Investigators:
Bronstein, Dr H Dutton, Professor SE Rao, Professor A
Monserrat, Professor B Goodwin, Professor AL Grey, Professor CP
Greenham, Professor N McCulloch, Professor I Stranks, Professor SD
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Princeton University
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: Standard Research TFS
Starts: 01 August 2024 Ends: 31 July 2028 Value (£): 1,275,154
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Averting dangerous consequences of climate change and transitioning to societies that use our natural resources sustainably is one of the most existential challenges currently facing humanity. At the technological level, advanced energy materials are needed not only to sustain incremental advances in existing zero-carbon energy technologies, but also to address open technology challenges requiring disruptive breakthroughs. New, emerging classes of energy materials, such as perovskite semiconductors and organic/biologically inspired materials for solar energy harvesting and photovoltaics, or advanced electrode materials for batteries offer great opportunities for achieving higher performance, lower cost and better environmental sustainability than existing energy materials. However, many aspects of their operation remain poorly understood. This is related to their relatively disordered, non-single crystalline microstructures, with complex interfaces that are critical for device operation, and the presence of weakly, non-covalently bonded, functional groups and molecular units. This makes the materials mechanically soft and the dynamics of lattice vibrations has a strong effect on the charge carriers and electronic excitations. However, their performance is surprisingly tolerant to such static and dynamic disorder, which opens a wide space for materials exploration as we apparently do not always need structural perfection.

This centre-to-centre collaboration brings together a team of energy materials researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford supported by the VETSOFT EPSRC programme grant with a world-leading group of researchers at Princeton University's Andlinger Centre for Energy and the Environment. Both centres have internationally leading, interdisciplinary teams with a broad spectrum of complementary techniques and scientific capabilities that can be applied and shared across traditional boundaries associated with different materials systems and/or applications. By not working in traditional silos, powerful synergies can be achieved. This is at the heart of the VETSOFT programme grant, which brings together researchers working in soft functional energy materials for diverse applications in photovoltaics, photocatalysis, thermal energy harvesting and energy storage. A similar philosophy also underpins Princeton's Andlinger Centre, which has available a largely complementary set of capabilities.

The proposed centre-to-centre collaboration aims to achieve a deeper atomistic understanding and control of important physical processes in soft functional energy materials, in turn driving tangible enhancements in energy materials performance and new device concepts. We have identified three grand research challenges (RCs) for which there is a high added value from the collaboration between the two centres and for which complementary scientific capabilities and methodologies available at the two centres are needed. The centre-to-centre collaboration will allow us to tackle these in a more effective way than any of the participating groups could on their own. The first two RCs address scientific bottlenecks that are holding back the application of perovskite semiconductors in solar cells and of electrode materials for batteries: We will develop approaches for controlled doping of metal halide perovskite semiconductors and new battery anode materials based on niobium tungsten oxides capable of fast charging. The third one aims to achieve a deeper, fundamental understanding of energy transfer processes in biological energy harvesting. The proposed centre-to-centre collaboration will also provide a vehicle for encouraging other, exploratory research projects in advanced energy materials between groups at the two centres, that will lead to a sustained, effective partnership between the two centres outlasting the 4-year funding period of the proposed project.
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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk