14 December 2017

Feng Gao, senior lecturer at LiU, is one of 24 promising young researchers who have been named Wallenberg Academy Fellow. He will now receive further funds to continue developing a new type of material known as “perovskites”, which are well-suited for use as, among other things, solar cells and light-emitting diodes, LEDs.

Feng GaoFeng Gao Photo credit: Markus MarceticThe efficiency of the solar cells manufactured from perovskites has increased from a few per cent to more than 22% in just a few years, and they are now on a fully equal par with conventional solar cells manufactured from silicon. However, one problem is that they are still not sufficiently stable, while another is that they contain highly toxic lead.

Double halide perovskiteDouble halide perovskite Photo credit: Linköping UniversityA perovskite is a material with a special crystal structure. The perovskite-based materials, primarily a hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite consisting of lead, halogens and small organic molecules, have aroused great interest in recent years. Feng Gao has now been granted long-term financial support to create a new generation of “halide double perovskites” – materials that contain a double set of metals to replace toxic lead.

High risk project

“No-one has been able to make double perovskites into efficient devices before. Double perovskites have many unique properties, and it is expected that there might be over 4,000 possible combination of double perovskites, many of which are based on non-toxic and readily available elements. We can use theoretical calculations to identify those which are particularly interesting for optoelectronic applications” says Feng Gao.

“I am grateful to the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation that it is prepared to take a risk. This is a high risk project, but if we succeed, the results will make a significant impact and give us cheap and efficient solar cells and LEDs. Even if we don’t succeed, we will gain knowledge that can lead to the development and understanding of new materials. This is an ideal project for PhD training,” he says.

Promising young researchers

“Wallenberg Academic Fellows” is an initiative that focuses on promising young researchers, with the intention of reinforcing Sweden’s position as a leading research nation. It is to be possible for the most highly talented researchers to remain in Sweden, and for international researchers to be recruited by Swedish universities. The initiative includes a mentorship programme, which gives the young researchers the possibility of improving their scientific leadership skills, and to improve the way in which they can translate their research into applications.

The grants to the researchers range between SEK 5 and 14 million, depending on the field of study, and are awarded for a five-year period. At the end of the first period, the researchers will be able to apply for funding for a further five years. The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has awarded a total of SEK 1.4 billion within this programme since 2012.

The programme has been set up in close collaboration with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences; the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry; the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities; the Swedish Academy; and the Swedish universities.

The universities nominate researchers to the programme, after which the academies evaluate the candidates and present the most promising researchers to the foundation, which makes the final selection.


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