PhD Research Studentships

Development of novel photovoltaic devices combining ferroelectric nanostructures with perovskite solar cells

Supervisor: Joe BRISCOE
Apply by:31 January 2023
Start in:September (Semester 1)


This post is within the School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS), a large school at QMUL with 70-80 academics and a similar number of postdoctoral research staff. There are around 1,000 undergraduate and taught postgraduate students and 220 PhD students, supported by an administrative and technical staff team of 45 people. The studentship is based in Dr Joe Briscoe’s lab, and the successful candidate will join a team of eight PhD students and three postdoctoral researchers working in his group. Dr Briscoe’s research is focused on developing thin films and nanostructured materials for renewable energy applications, including photovoltaics (PVs), photoelectrocatalysis (PEC) for ‘solar fuels’ and piezoelectric energy harvesting.

This studentship forms part of a substantial 5-year research project in Dr Briscoe’s group funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project aims to develop new routes to high efficiency solar energy conversion – both for PVs and PEC for solar fuels – by producing nanocomposite thin films of ferroelectric and photoactive materials. Ferroelectrics contain a permanent electric dipole and have been shown to convert sunlight to electricity via a mechanism known as the bulk photovoltaic effect (BPVE). This differs from the mechanism 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, aiming to make low-cost and high-efficiency solar energy devices for the future.

In this PhD project, the successful candidate will undertake a project to fabricate, understand and optimise PV devices that combine ferroelectric nanostructures which display a BPVE with halide perovskites. Halide perovskites for perovskite solar cells (PSCs) have generated substantial excitement in PV research in the last 10 years as their efficiency has rapidly increased from below 4% to over 25% in this short time making them the highest performing solution processable (and therefore low cost) PV device. As such they are already approaching their theoretical efficiency limit. Therefore, this project aims to develop a new route to produce high-efficiency devices by coupling the BPVE to the conventional PV effect. In undertaking this PhD you will therefore develop a wide range of skills including solution processing of semiconductor and ferroelectric materials, PV device fabrication and testing and a wide range of materials and device characterisation. This includes using techniques such as X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, time-resolved spectroscopy, as well as using a brand-new, dedicated atomic force microscope (with piezoresponse force microscopy and photoconductive AFM) in Dr Briscoe’s lab. You will also benefit from substantial established expertise and techniques in Dr Briscoe’s group in ferroelectric nanostructure fabrication and PSC device fabrication and testing.

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.

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours bachelor’s degree in Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry, or related subjects. Experience or knowledge of functional materials or devices such as semiconductors, ferroelectrics or piezoelectrics, and PVs would be desirable. A master’s degree in a relevant subject is also desirable.

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College, which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial research support. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop the skills and attributes needed to manage research and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.


Funded by: SEMS
This studentship is fully funded and includes a 3-year stipend (set at £19,668 for 2022/23) and 3 years of Home tuition Fees.


  • 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).
  • Candidates are expected to start in September (Semester 1).
  • SEMS and Principal-funded studentships: this studentship arrangement covers home tuition fees and provides an annual stipend for up to three years (currently set at the 2023/24 stipend rate of £20,622 pa)
  • Note that Queen Mary Research Studentships cover home-rated tuition fees only (See: for details)
  • Overseas applicants would be required to meet the difference between home and international tuition fees


For informal enquiries about this opportunity, please contact Joe BRISCOE.


Start an application for this studentship and for entry onto the PhD Materials Science full-time programme (Semester 1 / September start):

Apply Now »

Please be sure to quote the reference "SEMS-PHD-428" to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.

SEMS Research Centre: