/Designing transition metal-based protection layers and co-catalysts for PEC applications

Designing transition metal-based protection layers and co-catalysts for PEC applications

PhD - Genk | More than two weeks ago

Explore the pathways for photoelectrochemical conversion of CO2/H2O to value added products.

The conversion of abundant chemicals like CO2 or water to value-added products like methanol/ethanol and H2 is a prime area of research to achieve a carbon-neutral economy. However, the thermodynamic and kinetic challenges associated with these reactions make it a complex process. On the other hand, solar energy is a clean and abundant energy source considered a promising solution for environmental and energy crises. Furthermore, solar energy can be directly utilized to convert CO2/H2O molecules into valuable products through photoelectrochemical (PEC) processes. The key elements for achieving high solar-to-fuel conversions are semiconducting materials, transport layers, and protection layers. When a semiconductor material is exposed to light, it generates electrons and holes that have the potential to conduct oxidation and reduction reactions. To further lower the energy barrier for these reactions and enhance selectivity for the desired product, co-catalysts can be employed.  Therefore, there is a significant interest in developing efficient materials that can improve PEC energy conversion process.

In this project, two aspects associated with the PEC will be addressed:

  1. development and optimization of transition metal-based protection layers that can assist charge transport and protect the photo-absorbers in harsh alkaline conditions, where the reactions will be conducted.
  2. development of novel co-catalysts based on abundant elements through wet-chemical processes and integration of the catalysts to photo-absorption stacks for selective conversion of chemicals.


Various electrical, physical, and photo(electrochemical) characterizations and studies will be conducted to evaluate the performance of these materials for solar fuel generation in different electrolytes. The work will be performed in close collaboration with different partners focusing on different aspects such as – theory and modelling, interface, and electrochemical devices.


The Ph.D. candidate will join imec’s PV technology group performing world-class research on advanced thin-film and wafer-based technologies at our state-of-the-art research facilities located at the Energyville Campus in Genk.



Required background: Material sciences, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering. Background in semiconductors or photo/electrochemistry is highly desired.

Type of work: 10% reading, 60% experimental, 30% characterization and modelling

Supervisor: Bart Vermang

Co-supervisor: Jef Poortmans

Daily advisor: Vishal Kakkarakunnel Jose

The reference code for this position is 2024-099. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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