Postgraduate Scholarship in the computational design of novel photovoltaic materials

Postgraduate Scholarship in the computational design of novel photovoltaic materials

Supervisor: Dr Nicholas Bristowe

A funded PhD position is available in the field of theory and simulation of functional materials.

The aim of the project is to design novel solar cell materials using simulations based on quantum mechanics (density functional theory). Photovoltaics are likely to be one of the most important sources of renewable energy in the future. One novel strategy to improve the efficiency of solar cells is to use a ferroelectric material as the light absorbing element. Ferroelectrics are analogous to the more widely known ferromagnets (also known as permanent magnets) such is Iron, but show a spontaneous (and switchable) electrical polarization instead of magnetization. Photovoltaics rely on the separation of light-induced negatively and positively charge carriers, and a spontaneous polarisation in ferroelectrics can aid this process. These spontaneous photocurrents may even allow “photoferroics” to circumvent the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit of traditional solar cells. Unfortunately almost all known ferroelectrics (e.g. PbTiO3) are poor absorbers of sunlight and poor transporters of charge carriers. These key issues have prevented the “photoferroic” concept from receiving greater attention, despite over 40 years of research into the effect. This PhD will consider novel strategies to bypass these issues, through the combination of fundamental theory, materials design, and computational screening. Candidates should therefore have strong backgrounds in theory of condensed matter physics, or related subjects, in addition to an interest in programming and computation.

The successful candidate will be based at the University of Kent’s main campus in Canterbury, working under the supervision of Dr Nicholas Bristowe, who is moving to Kent in January 2017 (currently at Imperial College London).

This PhD studentship is due to start September 2017.

Entry requirements and Funding: Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science or a related subject. This is a Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship, which will be offered at the standard UK Research Councils’ rate (currently £14,296; to cover living costs) and will additionally cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate (currently £4,121 per annum). This scholarship is available to both UK and EU nationals and will involve undertaking teaching/demonstrating duties during the period of study.

Webpages: Dr Bristowe’s group page (currently at Imperial College London):; Functional Materials group (Kent):

Contact: For further information or informal enquiries, please contact Dr Nicholas Bristowe ( or Helen West (

How to Apply: To apply please go to:

You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results, two academic references).

Deadline Date for Applications: 30 January 2017
Interviews to be held between: 20 February-3 March 2017