Funded PhD Project (UK and EU students only)

Project code



School of Mathematics and Physics

Start dates

Closing date

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mathematics and Physics and will be supervised by Dr Jamie Foster, Dr Marianna Cerasuolo and Professor Andrew Osbaldestin.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19). The Faculty of Technology may fund project costs/consumables up to £1,500 p.a.

The work on this project will:

  • carry out the mathematical modelling and analysis required to underpin and inform changes in the current design of cells to mitigate detrimental processes associated with ionic defects within the perovskite lattice

Developing efficient means of renewable energy capture is key to the low-carbon economy. By far the largest available energy source is photons from the sun, which carry a huge amount of power to the Earth every day. Harnessing even a small fraction of this would easily satisfy world energy demand – covering 0.3-0.4% of the planet's surface in 20% efficient cells would be enough.

Currently, the vast majority of solar cells are made from multicrystalline silicon which offers both high efficiency – around 22% – and long-term stability, with devices typically lasting around 40 years. However, they require high temperature processing and various toxic treatments to fabricate, making them expensive and environmentally unfriendly, and limiting their uptake.

In recent years, interest in perovskite-based solar cells (PSCs) has risen sharply. This young technology (invented ca. 2011) has generated a meteoric rise in efficiency, and recently surpassed market-leading silicon technology by achieving an efficiency of 23%. PSCs are made of cheap materials and are solution-processable (clean to manufacture) – therefore promise to break the prevailing paradigm and, for the first time, offer a device that is cheap, clean and highly efficient.

The largest roadblock that remains to PSC commercialisation is their long-term durability. At present, PSCs can maintain usable performance for several months, but in order to compete in the market this needs to be extended significantly. Permanent degradation has now been conclusively linked to the formation and subsequent motion of ionic defects within a cell, caused by exposure to oxygen, UV-light and elevated temperature.

This project aims to carry out the mathematical modelling and analysis required to underpin and inform changes in the current design of cells. In doing so, it will also help mitigate detrimental processes associated with ionic defects within the perovskite lattice.

Models for this purposes must be coarse enough to be able to capture the important phenomena occurring throughout the device, yet must retain sufficient detail so the underlying physics can be interrogated. Drift-diffusion (DD) models provide this middleground. Models that include descriptions of both electronic and ionic charge transport will be formulated and solved using a combination of asymptotic and numerical techniques.

The models then will be iteratively refined, via comparison with real-world data provided by experimental collaborators, until reliable predictive power is established. Ultimately, they will be used to identify optimal designs for PSC microstructure that not only give rise to devices with high initial efficiencies, but ones able to maintain this performance in the long-term.

Entry requirements

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We’d welcome applications from candidates with some knowledge of the physics of semiconductors as well as some familiarity with asymptotic methods and scientific computing/numerical methods.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Jamie Foster ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Mathematics and Physics’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code MPHY4440219 when applying.