PhD: Towards sustainable materials for PV technology at multi-TW levels


You will contribute to make PV technology maximally sustainable and increase chances of a rapid transition to a 100% renewable energy system.

To keep the Earth average temperature rise to less than 2˚C, the world needs to rapidly transition to a (near) 100% renewable energy system with solar Photovoltaics (PV) playing a major as it is now the cheapest source of electricity. The estimated needed global PV generating capacity is about 70 TW by 2050 which requires to quickly grow the production capacity to about 3 TW/year to reach this objective. One of the major challenges for this is the limited availability of raw materials such as silver (Ag), Indium (In), and Bismuth (Bi). Owing to its excellent properties, Ag is used throughput the PV industry for the metallization of solar cells. If nothing changes, at the 1 TW level of production p.a., the PV industry will use 100% of the global supply of Ag. Similarly, considering the worldwide supply of In (~760 tons/year) and Bi (~8000 tons/years), In and Bi cannot be considered as sustainable materials for PV technology at the multi-TW level. This is a major limitation for new high-efficiency concepts such as silicon heterojunctions or tandems since they typically rely on In-based transparent conductive oxides (TCOs) for metallization and Bi-based low temperature solder alloys for interconnection. The focus of the Ph.D. candidate will be on using sustainable materials for PV technology at multi-TW levels without compromising on efficiency, costs, and reliability.  

The Ph.D. candidate will join imec’s PV technology group performing world-class research on advanced thin-film and wafer-based technologies at our state-of-the-art research facilities located at the Energyville Campus in Genk. The development of high performance TCOs without In and of advanced metallization/interconnection schemes with no (or very limited) usage of Ag or Bi will represent an important part of the work of the Ph.D. candidate. On top of this, the Ph.D. candidate will need to make use of the advanced characterization and modelling tools available at imec to support his/her experimental work. Further, the Ph.D. candidate will have the possibility to work with imec’s PV experts to improve the eco-design of PV cells and modules. Finally, the candidate will have the unique opportunity to work on those different topics with our industrial partners in multiple bilateral/funded projects.   


Required background: Master’s degree in Material sciences, Electrical engineering, or Physics with a strong background in semiconductive device physics and processing.

Type of work: 60% experimental work, 40% characterization and modelling

Supervisor: Bart Vermang

Co-supervisor: Jef Poortmans

Daily advisor: Hariharsudan Sivaramakrishnan Radhakrishnan