A University of Ulster academic has been awarded a prestigious research grant to investigate how nanomaterials can be used to harness the sun’s energy.
The research has commercial applications with the potential to make huge savings for the solar cell industry.
Dr Davide Mariotti, a Reader in the Engineering Research Institute within the University’s School of Engineering, is to receive £124,507 from the Leverhulme Trust over the next three years for an international collaborative research project entitled: ‘Materials processing by atmospheric pressure plasmas for energy applications’.
The Leverhulme award will be used to investigate a new approach to fabricating advanced materials for solar cells.
Dr Mariotti explained: “We are investigating a new approach to fabricating advanced materials for solar cells.
“Potentially, atmospheric pressure plasmas will allow the production of highly innovative solar cells with advanced materials including nanomaterials which can provide high efficiency devices and at the same time maintain low the cost of fabrication."
The research will be conducted in collaboration with researchers in the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan, Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany and Institut Jean Lamour France.
Dr Mariotti, whose research specialism is in plasma science, engineering and the synthesis of advanced functional materials, continued:
“Each member of the research network has their own unique area of expertise. There are currently several institutes and groups around the world producing excellent research in the field of atmospheric pressure plasmas for a variety of applications; however this will be the first time that world-leading experts will come together to address specific materials challenges with atmospheric pressure plasmas for solar cells."
He said the Leverhulme Trust funding will be used to grow the consortium and allow Ulster researchers to take a leadership role.
“The target is to have the technology deployed for solar cell fabrication and to develop industrial links.
"While the Leverhulme support is specific for photovoltaics, the technology developed will be highly transferable and applicable to a wide range of materials processing. This has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the Northern Ireland economy and to the aerospace and automotive industries,” said Dr Mariotti.
Originally from Italy, Dr Mariotti graduated both from the Universita' Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona in Microelectronic Engineering. He initially arrived at the University of Ulster as an Erasmus student and subsequently stayed on at Ulster to complete his BEng in Electronic Systems.
Dr Mariotti continued with his studies at Jordanstown and completed his doctorate there in 2002; Dr Mariotti spent five years in the US and Japan before returning to Ulster as a Reader.
In 2010, Dr Mariotti was the recipient of an international research fellowship (the JSPS Invitation Fellowship) to work with world class scientists in Japan for 5 months and conducted collaborative research with the Research Center for Photovoltaics in Tsukuba. In 2012, he was awarded a second international research fellowship, the JSPS Bridge Fellowship, in recognition of the collaborative research conducted with the Japanese partners.