Benefitting from the involvement of an Industrial Advisory Board which includes a multitude of industrial partners, SUBST has been able to focus on substituted and sustainable materials that are commercially relevant and which can be put on the market in the medium to long term, with profit margins that are competitive or superior. The insight from working with these industries also allows the team to identify any manufacturing problems during the materials design and processing.
Our laboratories are equipped with advanced manufacturing techniques including tape casting; screen printing; spark plasma sintering; aerosol jet direct write technology; hot isostatic pressing; electroplating; physical vapour deposition and plasma spraying. These techniques provide us with the necessary capabilities to test scaled-up manufacturing of materials and in the future help to build prototype devices. This will prevent downtime for the companies making the alternative materials easily adopted for implementation and manufacture.
SUBST highlights emerging scientific trends and the industrial involvement not only benefits the science but also PhD and PDRA researchers who are exposed to work practices and time-scales outside of academia. These contacts and partnerships lower barriers for future collaborations. An example of 'industrially focused' research is given below where we illustrate the development of new organic/inorganic hybrid perovskite materials for commercialisation of solar cell technology.
Organic/inorganic solar cells
The next generation of low cost solar cells will likely be fabricated from methyl ammonium lead iodide (MALI). These inorganic/hybrid materials have already demonstrated 20% photovoltaic efficiency in laboratories but there are concerns over the stability of the MALI in operation.
There are two competing geometries for the construction of solar cells: a mesoporous TiO2 structure based on original research in the Gratzel group at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and a more simple conventional, planar architecture (see images below).
At Sheffield we are working with a UK based company to investigate methods of fabrication of MALI for integration into the Gratzel cell and also looking at its stability at ambient and elevated temperatures. To date, we have observed significant differences in the thermal stability of MALI depending on fabrication process (see images below).