Development of High-Efficiency Solar Cells Using Novel Laser Processes

Project Description

Solar photovoltaics (PV) have emerged as a transformative technology in the clean energy transition, playing a pivotal role in combating climate change. The rapid advancements in solar cell efficiency over the past decades have made PV the most cost-effective form of new electricity generation across many regions globally. As a result, solar PV is projected to dominate global installed capacity, surpassing all other energy sources by the end of the current decade. This ongoing revolution in PV technology not only promises a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but also presents new economic opportunities, such as green hydrogen production, through even more efficient and affordable solar electricity.

The core focus of this PhD project is to contribute to the development of the next generation of high-efficiency solar cells by leveraging novel laser processes to fabricate interdigitated back contact solar cells. These cutting-edge solar cell designs have the potential to achieve significantly higher efficiency while maintaining a cost-effective production process. Your research will involve exploring and optimizing various deposition techniques to prepare dopant sources used in subsequent laser doping. Advanced characterization techniques will be utilized to investigate the electrical properties of these cells, ensuring their optimal performance.

As a part of the Silicon Solar Cells & Modules group at ANU, you will be part of a dynamic and collaborative team of over 25 researchers, working at the forefront of photovoltaic research. Your direct mentorship will be provided by leading experts in the field, offering valuable guidance and support throughout the project. The research activities within the group encompass a wide range of solar electricity technologies, from solar forecasting to fabricating high-efficiency photovoltaic cells and integrating renewables with storage capacity into the grid. Notably, the group excels in silicon photovoltaic device fabrication and characterization, developing advanced materials and cutting-edge technology for high-efficiency silicon solar cells and modules. Furthermore, their strong partnerships with industry and academic experts worldwide have led to the successful commercialization of numerous research outcomes.

The research will be conducted in state-of-the-art laboratories, well-equipped with advanced fabrication and characterization facilities. These cutting-edge facilities include various semiconductor fabrication processes like diffusion, ion implantation, chemical vapor deposition, and laser-based cutting and doping, among others. Additionally, you will have access to a brand new, state-of-the-art ALD system within the newly installed materials deposition cluster. The characterization facilities encompass state-of-the-art optical, electrical, and microscopy tools, enabling techniques such as luminescence spectroscopy and imaging, spectroscopic ellipsometry, Raman spectroscopy, photoemission yield spectroscopy, and solar simulators. Moreover, access to other materials characterization techniques, such as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, atomic force microscopy, and electron microscopy, further enriches the resources available for your research.

Undertaking this PhD project will provide an excellent training environment, equipping you with the necessary skills and expertise to pursue a rewarding career in photovoltaics, semiconductors, or materials research in either industry or academia. Through your contributions to the advancement of high-efficiency solar cells, you will play an instrumental role in driving the clean energy transition and combating climate change on a global scale.


Prospective students graduated or expecting to graduate with degrees in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Physics, Materials Science, Applied Science, Chemistry, or related disciplines, with a GPA above 8 out of 10, or 3.5 out of 4.0, or high distinction (HD), or equivalent are invited to apply. However, to be competitive for a scholarship, international students will need to have outstanding GPA rankings within their departments (usually the top 5%, preferably top 2%).

If you meet the HDR admission requirements (self-assessment here), please send an email directly to Dr Marco Ernst ( with the following information:

  • Email subject: Prospective PhD for silicon PV
  • Email body: please provide:
    • Your background, experience, and research interests.
    • GPA / result of each degree.
    • If possible, an estimation of your GPA ranking within your cohort. For example: 3rd out of 100, 5th out of 400, top 1%, top 2%, etc.
    • Details of any publications, along with DOI links.
    • List of any other relevant research achievements.
    • When you expect to be able to start your PhD if successful.
  • Attachments: CV, academic transcripts, and an additional PDF file which includes certificates of prizes, awards, recognitions or any other supporting evidence.

Initial assessment is based on the information you provide. In case critical information (e.g. GPA results) is missing your application cannot be considered. Obvious mass application e-mails will not be considered. We apologise that due to the large number of applications typically received, it is not possible to respond to all applicants.

We are looking forward to seeing outstanding candidates joining our group. Candidates from diverse backgrounds, including those traditionally underrepresented in the STEM field, are especially encouraged to apply!

Funding Notes

We are offering to support your PhD candidacy for a competitive scholarship application in the field of photovoltaics at the Australian National University (ANU), located in Canberra, Australia. For the successful applicant, the scholarship fully covers the university fees and research expenses, and provides an additional allowance to cover living costs for 3.5 years:
- Living allowance: AUD$ 34,000 per year
- Conference travel allowance: AUD$ 6,000 during PhD
- Relocation allowance: up to AUD$ 2,500
In case your scholarship application is unsuccessful, there may be options to provide alternative funding from upcoming research projects.


Our laser research and fabrication facilities:

Relevant overview publications

You can find out more about my research interests and previous publications at (

Marco Ernst
ANU researchers aligning a laser