Advanced Surface photovoltage measurements methods to enhance and characterize the performance of solar cells

Key Information


PSC is perhaps the hottest topic in the field of solar cells in recent years, due to its potential to be very low cost and very promising efficiency (22.7%) has been achieved recently (efficiency comparable to crystalline silicon solar cells)[1] The success of PSC will have dramatic impact on the field of solar cells and renewable energy, to help tackle the challenges of greenhouse effect, and energy crisis.. A key parameter to consider when optimising solar cell devices or when designing new materials is the position and effects of the energy levels in the materials. In this project Kelvin probe will be used to probe different interfaces of with main focus on perovskite solar cells with secondary consideration to organic solar cells, and other related material interfaces.

Introduction/ principle of Kelvin probe:

KPFM is a scanning probe microscopy technique based on an atomic force microscopy, which enable simultaneous imaging of surface topography and surface potential, and therefore is a powerful technique which allow direct correlation of film morphology to surface potential [2-3], in nano-meter spatial resolution. Considering the tip-sample system as a capacitor, the contact potential difference (CPD) is the difference in work function Φ between sample and tip, divided by e (the elementary charge):

VCPD = (Φsample-Φtip)/e ………..(1),

Research plan: As a beginning for work function measurements using kelvin probe instrument we plan to use typical perovskite solar cell architecture: Conducting glass(FTO)/Compact TiO2 layer/Mesoporous-TiO2/Perovskite/hole transport layer/counter metal electrode (Ag), This ultimately involves different interfaces and therefore it will be interesting to study how the work function on these different layers changing with processing conditions. We will systematically investigate following 2 thin film perovskite cell architectures (which are closer to commercialization application such as printing on flexible susbtrates).

Target to achieve 

  • Hands on learning for Kelvin probe spectroscopy instrument. Training will be provided from the company partners.
  • Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy (KPFM) will be applied as an advanced technique to study the surface potential, and electrical properties particularly on the effect of the SAMs, CNT, and the degradation of the films. The approaches will also be applied to perovskite photo-detector which has similar device structure to the solar cells, and to organic photovoltaic.
  • Poster Submission at national or International Conference such as MRS conference, USA
    Journal Submission
  • Use equipment in other existing projects, collaborate with other research groups
    Model specific results, such as Surface Photovoltage.

Explanation of Techniques
Production of Samples
Initial results
Discussion of Initial Results
Extended work.

Swansea would be responsible for the production of electronics materials (to be discussed further). Opportunity to visit KP-technology, Cambridgeshire and Imperial College, London (prestigious group of Prof. James Durrant) as per necessity for learning and collaboration purpose. 


Mainline supervisor - Dr. Sagar Jain, email sagarmjain@gmail.com

Sagar is experienced researcher COFUND fellow working with focus on Interface engineering of perovskite solar cells at Swansea university. He has +15 years of research experience and recently contributed significantly for the development of perovskite solar cell technology at Swansea university. For more information visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/staff/engineering/s.m.jain/

Co-supervisor – Prof. Iian Baikie , email iain@kptechnology.ltd.uk

Iian is founder and CEO of KP-technology instruments and former Professor of Cambridge University, UK. He has strong, more than 35 years of research experience in the field of work function measurements of various interfaces. 


For any informal enquiry about the project please contact Dr. Sagar Jain, Email sagarmjain@gmail.com



  1. https://www.nrel.gov/pv/assets/images/efficiency-chart.png
  2.  http:& Sponsoring Company KP-technology instruments

    Candidates should hold an Engineering or Physical Sciences degree with a minimum classification level of 2:1 or equivalent relevant experience. 

     Our funders require applicants to also meet the following eligibility criteria:

    Further information regarding eligibility criteria can be found at: http://www.materials-academy.co.uk/eligibility

    The Athena SWAN Charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committed to addressing unequal gender representation.


    The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a tax free stipend of £12,500 p.a.

    Closing Date 22 April 2018

    Start Date October 2018

    Apply Now

    Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome and may be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk