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Research interests

My research interests are centred around materials used for renewable energy generation (e.g. solar cells) and storage (e.g. reusable batteries). I use a branch of physics called Density Functional Theory (DFT) to predict the properties of these materials and link the macroscopic observables (such as open circuit voltage or thermodynamic stability) with microscopic processes (such as electron capture or electron-phonon coupling).

DFT is an ab-initio (first-principles) method derived from quantum mechanics and can be used to predict material properties without experimental input (see, for example, this open access article). Our atomic scale models can be used to rationalise existing experimental observations, or guide future investigations. For example, it can explain why heat travels slowly through some materials or predict new materials for high-performance solar cells.

When DFT is applied to crystalline materials it is usually assumed that there is perfect translational symmetry - that there are no defects (missing or extra atoms) - and that the atoms are perfectly static. However a material always has defects (these are unavoidable due to the laws of thermodynamics [1]), and the atomic lattice vibrates with heat. These defects and vibrations are important to understand because they can have a significant impact upon the performance of a device. My research has focused on the defects and lattice distortions in halide and chalcogenide perovskite materials, a family of materials that have become incredibly popular over the last decade as they can convert sunlight into electricity efficiently, and have the potential to form more flexible, lightweight and cheaper solar panels than those currently on the market.

 

Biography

My research uses solid state physics, quantum chemistry and high-perforance computing to investigate why particular materials can efficiently generate energy from sunlight (solar cells), or repeatedly store and release energy (rechargeable batteries). I am an Assistant Professor at Northumbria University and a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute. I was previously a PhD student and post-doc in the Materials Design Group at Imperial College London, where I was awarded the Thomas Young Centre at Imperial award for my thesis "Defects and distortions in hybrid halide perovskites".

I am a qualified teacher in post-compulsory education and currently teach computational physics and research computing skills at UG and PG level. I am a topic editor at the Journal of Open Source Software, and have a broader interest in how we can improve research practice in the computational sciences - with a focus on working openly and software publishing. My research is supported by the Materials Chemistry Consortium, where I serve as a committee member.

Links:

  • For up-to-date information about my research, talks etc please visit my website.
  • To see my contributions to open software please visit my github page.

 

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

Education/Academic qualification

Materials Science, PhD, Defects and Distortions in Hybrid Halide Perovskites, Imperial College London

1 Oct 201530 Sept 2019

Award Date: 1 Jan 2020

Teacher Training, PGCE, Birmingham City University

1 Oct 20111 Jul 2012

Award Date: 1 Jul 2012

Theoretical Physics, MSci / Magnetoresistance in a quasi two-dimensional metal, University of Birmingham

1 Oct 20071 Jul 2011

Award Date: 19 Jul 2011

External positions

Software Sustainability Institute

1 Mar 2019 → …

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