Harnessing Quantum Mechanics to Create Improved Solar Cells

The operation of a modern design of a solar cell consists of three stages: light absorption, movement of electronic excitation, and charge separation. We recently showed that the rate of the first of these, light absorption, can be markedly improved in a symmetric ring of molecules by exploiting quantum interference [1], and see image [2]. In this project you will consider both light absorption and exciton transport, and probe the extent to which quantum mechanical models can be used to improve the operation of solar cells. You will go beyond idealised designs to look at realistic quantum systems. You will focus on systems that are available for immediate testing in the laboratories of collaborators - for example, semiconductor quantum dots or organic molecules.

You will work to understand how these systems interact with their environments, and model the combination as open quantum systems. This will be done using a variety of simple and more sophisticated techniques, as it becomes clear which approximations can be made. The final aim of the project will be to propose an experiment in which a clear signature of enhanced light absorption could be seen.

This project will be based in St Andrews, jointly supervised by Brendon Lovett (St Andrews) and Erik Gauger (Heriot Watt).

References and further reading:

[1] Superabsorption of light via quantum engineering, K. D. B. Higgins, S. C. Benjamin, T. M. Stace, G. J. Milburn, B. W. Lovett and E. M. Gauger, Nature Communications 5 4705 (2014)

[2] Image licence: creative commons CC_BY copyright Simon Benjamin (2014)

Please send inquiry emails to Dr. Erik Gauger at E.Gauger@hw.ac.uk or Dr. Brendon Lovett (St Andrews) at bwl4@st-andrews.ac.uk