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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 from new types of photovoltaic material to make PV devices cheaper right through to their design, manufacturing and successful deployment, including recycling.

Having low cost PV technologies will ensure that solar makes a full contribution to the World's energy needs, particularly in developing economies where access to the grid is challenging.

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 an electrical current. These PV materials can be inorganic, organic or a hybrid version. The next generation of PV devices will be based on materials that are more abundant and that can be produced more cheaply with less environmental impact. Next generation PV technology will also have a much lower energy payback time.

Solar energy research at Durham University is a shining example of inter-disciplinary collaboration with Engineers, Physicists, Chemists, modellers and experimentalists working together to fabricate increasingly more efficient photovoltaic devices and working with Geographers, Economists and Anthropologists to explore the social and economic dynamics of solar power. This ensures we understand the complex social issues which arise when deploying new technologies. PV research at Durham is focused on delivering real success in solar energy.

Key expertise areas:

  • A broad range of PV device technologies:​ inorganic, organic, hybrid organic-inorganic structures
  • Developing new sustainable materials for low​ cost, large area devices for terawatt scale​ electricity generation
  • Advanced spectroscopic studies of quantum and novel behaviour in electronic materials and devices
  • Modelling of physical processes underpinning photovoltaic action
  • Developing novel approaches: nanostructures​ and nanoparticle inks​
  • Underpinning systems required to successfully deploy PV.
  • Grid integration of solar energy​
  • Statistical modelling of the output for system integration of solar power
  • Small scale integration of solar power in houses and communities
  • Theoretical modelling of device deployment,​ systems and integration into society
  • Social impacts and implications of solar​ energy uptake globally

Key Researchers



Research Area

Professor Colin D Bain


Tribology and energy efficiency

Professor Andrew Beeby


Photo chemistry and photo physics

Professor Sandra Bell


Social impacts of solar farms

Professor Martin R Bryce


Organic light emitting devices (OLEDS)

Professor Chris Groves

Engineering, Director Centre for Molecular and Nanoscale Electronics

Organic and inorganic photodetectors; physics of organic solar cells

Professor Douglas Halliday


Advanced spectroscopic studies of quantum and novel behaviour in electronic materials and devices

Professor Gordon D Love


Design of Optical concentrators

Dr Budhika Mendis


Microstructure and defect characterisation of thin-film solar cells (both inorganic and organic) primarily using electron microscopy

Professor Andy Monkman


PV Devices

Professor Mike C Petty


Organic Light Emitting Devices, Organic Phtovoltaics and Related Plastic Electronics Technologies

Prof Marcus Power


transition to low carbon energy systems in sub-Saharan Africa and the design and financing of energy services

Dr Riccardo Scarpa

Business School

Community and household level adoption and financing of new energy technologies.

Dr Marek Szablewski


The use of organic acceptor chromophores in OLEDS and organic PV systems

Professor J A Gareth Williams


Energy-efficient lighting (OLEDs, LECs); solar energy conversion.