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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Photovoltaics - Fundamental Science Through to Manufacturing Design

Durham is widely regarded as a world-leader in photovoltaic (PV) research. We are working on the key fundamental science that underpins a range of PV device technologies right through to their design, manufacturing and successful deployment. Durham University also has academics studying the societal and economic aspects of solar power. This ensures we understand the complex social issues which arise when deploying new technologies. In combination with our world-leading science, this ensures the PV research at Durham is focused on delivering real success in solar PV energy.

We are working on the key fundamental science that underpins both organic and inorganic PV devices right through to their design, manufacturing and deployment. We are working in the key areas of: organic PV, inorganic PV, hybrid organic-inorganic structures and the underpinning systems required to successfully deploy PV.

Key expertise areas:

• A broad range of PV device technologies:​ inorganic, organic and other devices​
• Developing new sustainable materials for low​ cost, large area devices for terawatt scale​
• Modelling of composition and fabrication​ methods for photovoltaic devices​
• Developing novel approaches: nanostructures​ and nanoparticle inks​
• Grid integration of solar energy​
• Theoretical modelling of device deployment,​ systems and integration into society.​
• Societal impacts and implications of solar​ energy.

Download our Solar energy research expertise flier.

Photovoltaic devices (or PV) are structures that convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Harvesting the energy of the sun is one of the key ways in which we can address the challenges of supplying sufficient energy for future generations. The earth receives sufficient energy in about one hour to meet the entire energy demands of the planet for one year; there is an abundance of solar energy available. PV devices consist of thin layers of electronic materials which absorb the energy from the sun and convert this into positive and negative charge to create an electrical current. These PV materials can be inorganic or organic. At Durham we are researching new types of photovoltaic material to make PV device cheaper. Having low cost PV technologies will ensure that solar makes a full contribution to the World's energy needs.

Inorganic PV 

Durham University has been a leader in thin film photovoltaic technologies for a long time. For example, Dr Douglas Halliday is working on advanced spectroscopic studies of quantum and novel behaviour in electronic materials and devices. He aims to establish the fundamental physical mechanisms by which inorganic materials in photovoltaics work.

Organic PV

The organic photovoltaics research at Durham University is a shining example of inter-disciplinary collaboration. Staff from a variety of departments are working together to fabricate increasingly more efficient organic photovoltaic devices and to explore applications of this technology. The organic photovoltaics group includes modellers and experimentalists who work together to produce world leading research.


Much of the work on organic electronic and opto-electronic devices at Durham is co-ordinated by the Centre for Molecular and Nanoscale Electronics (co-Directors: Professor Bryce and Dr Chris Groves). Our staff are conducting statistical modelling of the output for system integration of solar power as well as looking at small scale integration of solar power in houses and communities.

The social aspects of solar power use are also studied by a number of our researchers. A key example is the Customer Led Network Revolution the UK’s biggest smart grid project which is trialling innovative new smart grid technology and introducting solar panels and smart technology to homes across the North East and Yorkshire. An international example is research in Anthropology into the implications of solar technology and industry for Greece's society and economy (Sandra Bell and Daniel Knight) and research in Geography regrading the impact of off-grid solar in Bangladesh.