PhD Vacancy

Unravelling Energy and Charge Transport Mechanisms in Natural Light Harvesting and Photovoltaic Materials

A fully funded PhD position is available in the Oliver group with a standard EPSRC stipend of £14,296 for 2016/2017.

Photosynthetic organisms harness energy from sunlight to power most biological activity on Earth. Inside chloroplasts of plants, sunlight is absorbed by billions of chlorophyll molecules and used to drive photosynthesis; carbon dioxide and water are converted into simple sugars essential for plant growth. This remarkable natural process regularly achieves 100% efficiency: every photon absorbed is converted into chemical energy. Our efforts to harness solar energy with man-made photovoltaic (PV) technology to generate electricity have, to date, been far less effective. To meet the ever-growing global energy demands, it is imperative for our society to develop renewable and more efficient PV devices that can take full advantage of the abundant solar flux.

This project will use cutting-edge ultrafast laser spectroscopies such as two-dimensional electronic-vibrational spectroscopy [1] and 2D electronic spectroscopy [2], to follow create a map of energy/charge flow between molecules with femtosecond time resolution (1 fs = one millionth billionth of a second) in natural light harvesting proteins, biomimetic counterparts and leading PV materials such as perovskites, quantum dots and organic bulk heterojunction polymers.

By understanding the routes and timescales of energy flow inside natural light harvesting systems and PV materials, we will seek to gain a fundamental understanding on the molecular level of the mechanisms that underpin energy transport and charge-separation. These insights will provide (1) a greater fundamental understanding of natural light harvesting and (2) a guide to the design of the next-generation thin film PV materials.

This project involves strong collaborations with Dr Mike Jones, Dr Ross Anderson (School of Biochemistry), and Professor David Fermin (School of Chemistry) at the University of Bristol.

[1] TAA Oliver, NHC Lewis and GR Fleming, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 111, 10061 (2014).
[2] VM Huxter, TAA Oliver, D Budker and GR Fleming, Nat. Physics., 9, 744 (2013).

For more project details and informal enquiries contact Dr Tom Oliver:

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