Academic Positions Nederland

Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER), Nederland

PhD position: Multi-scale simulation of ultra-high efficiency nanowire solar cells


Among the many innovative designs of third generation photovoltaics, the nanowire solar cell is one of the most promising, because it opens up many new possibilities. One advantage of nanowires is their intrinsic light concentration property, which allows efficient optical absorption. Another important advantage is that nanowires allow forming hetero-junctions without defects at the interface between different semiconductor materials, which is difficult or impossible to achieve in conventional thin film technology. In addition, a nanowire array uses less semiconductor material than a thin film and can be synthesized on an inexpensive substrate. Currently, the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) holds the world record with a 17.8% efficiency InP nanowire solar cell. To overcome the Shockley-Queisser limit, strategies like optimizing light absorption by altering the diameter and shape of the nanowires, replacing single-junction cells by multi-junction cells, and exploring novel materials and novel structures are currently explored.

Job description

Because of the great degree of complexity in both fabrication techniques and operation mechanisms, an important challenge is to establish the link between the choice of material and the final device performance. To speed up the experimental development of highly efficient nanowires solar cells, we will develop a new computational tool to simulate the functioning of these solar cells, by combining Density Functional Theory (atomistic material properties), optical simulation (light in- and out-coupling), and full band Monte Carlo (electron transport properties) methods. We will apply the combined multiscale computational tool to a number of systems studied by our experimental colleagues. By doing so, the candidates will:

  • acquire a broad knowledge of condensed matter physics,
  • learn state-of-the-art computational methods,
  • develop new theoretical methods in a form suitable for numerical implementation, and
  • apply those methods in the relevant problem areas.


This project will be carried out in the Center for Computational Energy Research (CCER), a new joint research center set up by the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands. The position is funded and part of the Shell/NWO/FOM Computational Science for Energy Research (CSER) program. DIFFER and TU/e have unique computational and experimental infrastructure for carrying out energy research. Broad expertise on atomistic materials simulation (Dr. Shuxia Tao) and light in- and out-coupling (Prof. Peter Bobbert) is present. Regarding full band Monte Carlo simulations, we will collaborate with Prof. Xiaoyan Liu from the Institute of Microelectronics of Peking University. The computational work will be directly applied to real devices made by a world-wide leading experimental group in high efficiency nanowire solar cells at Applied Physics at Eindhoven University of Technology (Prof. Erik Bakkers).


We are looking for an excellent and enthusiastic candidate with excellent communication skills holding an MSc degree in Physics, Materials Science, Applied Mathematics, Electrical Engineering, or equivalent, preferably with a specialization in theory. Expertise in programming, background knowledge in photovoltaics and experiences with multiscale modeling are advantages. Starting date: as soon as possible.

Conditions of Employment

When fulfilling a PhD position at the FOM Foundation, you will get the status of junior scientist.
You will have an employee status and can participate in all the employee benefits FOM offers. You will get a contract for four years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 2,834 euro gross per month.The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8 percent and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33 percent.
You are supposed to have a thesis finished at the end of your four year term with FOM.
A training programme is part of the agreement. You and your supervisor will make up a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need. This plan also defines which teaching activities you will be responsible (up to a maximum of ten percent of your time). The conditions of employment of the FOM Foundation are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres (Cao-Onderzoekinstellingen), more exclusive information is available at this website under Personeelsinformatie (in Dutch) or under Personnel (in English).
General information about working at FOM can be found in the English part of this website under Personnel. The 'FOM job interview code' applies to this position.


More information about this PhD position can be obtained from Dr. Shuxia Tao with a title Solar Cell PhD.
If you are interested in this position, please provide an application letter, a CV, a list of grades obtained in relevant education programs, a thesis, if any (typically BSc and MSc), and names and contact details of at least two senior scientists as references.


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Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)

The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER wants to conduct leading fundamental research in the fields of fusion and solar fuels, in close partnership with academia and industry.

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