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School of Engineering and Materials Science Research Studentships

Development of ferroelectric nanocomposites for solar energy devices

Supervisors: Joe BRISCOE

Application Deadline: 16-07-2021

This studentship forms part of a recently-awarded project in the group of Dr Joe Briscoe funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project aims to develop new routes to high efficiency solar energy conversion – both for photovoltaics (PV) and photoelectrocatalysis (PEC) for solar fuel production – by producing nanocomposite thin films of ferroelectric and photoactive materials. Ferroelectrics are a class of material that contain a permanent electric dipole, which have been shown to convert sunlight to electricity via a mechanism known as the bulk photovoltaic effect (BPVE). This differs from the mechanism used in conventional PVs, and therefore is not subject to the same efficiency limits. In the project ferroelectric nanostructures will be developed that demonstrate a BPVE, which will then be coupled to high efficiency light absorbers to form a new type of solar energy device.

During the PhD the successful candidate will develop ferroelectric nanostructures and nanocomposite thin films, and study and optimise the BPVE effect within them. This will include deposition of thin films via pulsed-laser deposition (PLD) in collaboration with Prof Judith Driscoll at the University of Cambridge. Therefore, some travel between London and Cambridge (<1 hour by train) will be required. The materials will be characterised using the wide range of excellent characterisation facilities across the School of Engineering and Materials Science, and wider Materials Research Institute, including X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, as well as using a brand-new, dedicated atomic force microscopy (with piezoresponse force microscopy and photoconductive AFM) in Dr Briscoe’s lab. Finally, the structures will be tested for their PV and/or PEC performance in device applications.

This PhD project is therefore an exciting opportunity to be involved in the forefront of development of the next generation of renewable energy technology that could lead to high efficiency and low cost solar energy devices in the future. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to develop skills in thin film and nanostructure deposition, device fabrication and testing, and nanoscale characterisation and measurements. They will also benefit from involvement in the research groups of both Dr Briscoe and Prof Driscoll, and exposure to the cutting-edge research environments at Queen Mary University of London and The University of Cambridge.

Research Studentship Details

  • Available to Home applicants only.
  • Applicant required to start in September 2021.
  • The studentship arrangement will cover home tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (Currently set for 2021/22 as £17,609).
  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).
  • Please note that this studentship is only available to Home applicants. (See: for details)

Supervisor Contact Details:

For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Dr Joe Briscoe


Application Method:

To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Materials Science programme (PhD, Full Time, Semester 1 Start) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Research degrees in Materials:

Further Guidance:

Please be sure to include a reference to ‘2021 SEMS JB’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.