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Using computer simulations to design better printable solar cells


The ability to print efficient, stable and cheap solar cells near ambient conditions would revolutionise our transition to renewable energy.  
Metal halide perovskites have emerged as a promising candidate for realising this dream, as a printable solar cell material with the fastest growing efficiency to date.  
The ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, in partnership with CSIRO, is working to make this a reality by combining a multidisciplinary research team with pilot-scale printing capabilities.  
In this project, you will use computer simulations to study how crystalline films of metal halide perovskites form from solution and how they are affected by moisture. The insights gained from this work will help our experimental partners to obtain better control of device nanostructure and performance. 
The Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science is funded by the Australian Research Council and links the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT and UNSW, together with other national and international partners.  
As a PhD student in the Centre, you will be part of a network of over 100 students and scientists, with regular opportunities to take part in scientific meetings and training programs. For further information about the Centre. This project will include the opportunity to visit experimental collaborators in Melbourne. 
A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more, refer to the Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Excellence Award and contact Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper directly.


Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



Metal halide perovskites are inorganic or organometallic materials that can be formed into thin crystalline films by depositing a solution of precursor ions onto a substrate and then removing the solvent.  
This process has been used to make very efficient perovskite solar cells (PSCs) at small scale, however there are barriers to converting this success into a mature technology. 
For example, PSCs are not as stable under humid environmental conditions as conventional silicon-based solar cells, and it is not currently possible to print efficient PSCs at scale.  
One of the central problems is that we lack a detailed understanding of how perovskite crystals form at the molecular level and of how to influence this process.  
To help solve this problem, you will use computational modelling to study the formation and dissolution of metal halide perovskites at the molecular level. 
This will involve the use of molecular dynamics simulations and statistical mechanics techniques to characterise the mechanism and thermodynamics of these processes, including the effect of changing experimental conditions.  
This will be done in close collaboration with experimental partners in Melbourne and with other members of our diverse research group at the University of Sydney.  
The expected outcome is a set of strategies (ink formulation and processing conditions) that can be used to print stable and efficient PSCs at scale.

Additional information

A complimentary scholarship for this project may be available through a competitive process. To find out more, refer to the Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Excellence Award and contact Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper directly.
Applicants must have a strong background in physical chemistry, chemical physics or a related field. Strong mathematics skills and programming experience would be an advantage. Previous experience with computer simulations is desirable. 
HDR Inherent Requirements In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)
You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing yur application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2817

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