Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Topic: Case Studies

Developing the Next Generation of Solar Cells at Oxford PV

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📥  Case Studies, Comment, Internships & visits

Since January I’ve been working with scientists and engineers at Oxford Photovoltaics, a start-up company spun out from Oxford University research that aims to scale up and commercialise perovskite solar cells (so named for the crystal structure of the absorber material).

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Perovskite cells have obtained similar efficiencies to established solar cell technologies like silicon, but are thinner, cheaper and easier to make. They can also be engineered to absorb a different part of the visible solar spectrum than silicon and so be integrated straight on top of silicon cells to make a tandem device that is more efficient than either component on its own.

Instability has been a major problem to solve for perovskite cells, but the research community has made rapid progress on designing more stable devices since they were first reported just a few years ago.

How did I identify this placement?

Basically by speaking to people! I met engineers from Oxford PV at a conference in Swansea and asked if they’d consider hosting a placement student. An interview and a few logistical matters later it was somehow already time to begin.

What were the key differences to working in an academic setting?

The pressures definitely feel different to academia. At University you want to explore research questions in depth and preferably be the first person to publish and tell the world about your science, while in industry everything is kept under wraps. You have to focus on quickly delivering the commercial aspects of the research, even if it means leaving interesting tangential questions unanswered, since the commercial competition is fierce.

What would I recommend for students thinking about an internship?

Absolutely go for one! Be careful that both you and the host organisation know what to expect, bring energy and enthusiasm to the role and it’s a real chance to learn a lot in a different environment, potentially outside your comfort zone. Three months is not a lot of time to execute a project in a new setting, so I had to quickly get up to speed with procedures and equipment. The result is that I’ve had a fantastic time, learnt a huge amount both scientifically and about how things are done in a start-up company and met many people working on making a promising new renewable energy technology into a commercial reality.


Oli is studying towards his PhD on 'Optimizing energy harvesting processes in metal halide photovoltaics' with Professor Mark Weller and Professor Chris Bowen.

 

Meet our Cohort 2016

  

📥  Case Studies, Comment

19 students, all passionate about sustainable chemical technologies, joined the CSCT in September this year. The following post is designed by Alison Ryder and Megan Stalker to sum up who they are, their different backgrounds and reasons for joining the Centre. 



Interested in joining us next year?
Applications are now open: www.bath.ac.uk/csct/cdt

 

Reflections of our MRes year

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📥  Case Studies, Comment

CSCT cohort 2014 graduated with flying colours on 9 December 2015 at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Out of the 16 students, 6 graduated with distinction and 9 with merit. As they move on to their first year of PhD, they reflect on their MRes year at the centre.

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Cohort 2014 at the University of Bath Graduation Ceremony in Bath.

1. What attracted you to the Integrated PhD in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, as opposed to other PhD programmes?

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"The biggest reason for choosing the CSCT was that it has everything a PhD has plus much more. I finished my undergrad not knowing what I wanted to commit the next three years of my life in a lab researching, so I thought in the MRes year I would get to 'try before I buy' in research areas I'm interested in to test the water before leaping into a PhD. I wanted the social aspect of working in a cohort, which I felt would be very helpful to keep your morals up throughout the year. On a professional level the opportunity to take a 3 month internship in industry or abroad would be a fantastic experience and look good on the CV." - Jamie Courtenay

2. What do you feel is the biggest advantage gained by completing an MRes project within a different discipline than what was studied at undergraduate level?

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"As a chemist my other project involved tissue engineering which I was a bit apprehensive about as I have not opened a biology text book since GCSE! However, I'm so pleased I went for this project as tissue engineering is now a major part of my PhD." - Jamie Courtenay

"I've come from a Theoretical Physics/ Computational Chemistry background but after working with the Electrical Engineering department I definitely don't fear reading experimental papers now!" - Suzy Wallace

"Doing a project in a different discipline has given me an insight into research methodology and techniques that I would otherwise not have experienced, therefore, making me a more well rounded researcher" - Dominic Ferdani

3. What did you gain from completing the compulsory modules such as ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Public Engagement’ and ‘Environmental Management’?

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"All the modules helped me become a well-rounded scientist. Learning about how your work and research relates to companies and society was eye opening. The Public Engagement activities really help to put the work done at the centre into perspective and develop communication skills which are crucial for success." - Mike Joyes

4. Away from the academic side of the course, what advantages are there from being a member of a centre full of like-minded students?

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5. Were the two MRes projects helpful in helping you to decide which area you wanted to study for your PhD?

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"Prior to joining the CSCT, I was unsure what I wanted to do for a PhD. The opportunity to do two shorter projects during my first year was incredibly helpful." - Shawn Rood

"The MRes project allowed me to try a more risky project that I wasn't sure would work before committing 3 years to it. The flexibility with the second project has also allowed me to include aspects of this in my PhD." - Andrew Hall

 

A few words with our graduate, Duygu Celebi

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📥  Alumni, Case Studies

We interviewed Duygu Celebi, who has recently completed her PhD thesis at the CSCT and moved on to become a Senior Formulation Scientist at Unilever in Connecticut, USA.

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Tell us how you started your journey as a PhD student?

I came to the CSCT after completing a Masters degree at Imperial College London where I studied “Green Chemistry: Energy and Environment” but wanted to learn more about the renewable materials and sustainable technologies after I graduated. I came across the CSCT PhD studentship on a website when I was looking for jobs. Bath was one of my favourite cities in the UK and this combined with an integrated PhD in Sustainable Technologies was the perfect match for me so I applied for it. I was offered a place the morning after my interview and that was the beginning of my PhD journey.

How would you describe your time at the CSCT?

I really liked the idea of completing two projects during the first year and later deciding on one of them to take further to PhD level. I have heard some people regretting the research area they choose for their PhDs but at CSCT you are given the opportunity to choose which means you already have an idea of the research topic and get to know the potential supervisors for the project which is also a very important part of the PhD.

I had a great four years at CSCT and made some lifelong friends. We were constantly provided with the support to take us to a higher level and help us to stay in the competition. This could be by means of attending conferences, workshops related to your research, doing an internship in your preferred company and obtaining resources necessary for your knowledge growth.

What are you going to do next?

I have now moved to the US with my husband and am excited to be part of the Unilever family as a Senior Formulation Scientist. My role involves development of formulations for personal care products and optimization of the current techniques to test these products on the skin. I work on multiple projects involving cleansing, analysis and formulation.

How did CSCT have an impact on your career decision?

I did an internship at Unilever in the UK, which helped me gain an insight into research in industry which in turn, affected my career choice.

Any advice to our current and new students?

As long as you work hard and show that you are willing to learn, CSCT will provide you with all their resources and help you pursue your career.