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Nicholas Monahan

2016: Dr Nicholas Monahan, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: “Does coherence make organic solar cells more efficient?””

Climate change necessitates a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The inexpensive processing costs of organic solar cells should make them suitable to compete with cheap methods of electricity generation such as coal and natural gas, but their adoption is limited by low efficiencies. We lack the ability to design more efficient devices because it is not clear what causes rapid generation of charges in organic solar cells. Recent proposals suggest that fast, coherent formation of free charges is essential for creating high efficiency organic solar cells, but there is no current experimental technique that can unambiguously verify this claim.

In this project, Dr Monahan aims to develop a laser-based technique capable of measuring coherent dynamics during the formation of free charges in organic solar cells and applying it to model systems. The results of this research will indicate whether coherence is essential for fast, efficient charge separation and under what circumstances it occurs. This will lead to design principles for the engineering of new, more efficient organic solar cells.