Case study: Dr Lauren Hatcher

University Research Fellow 2020 – 2025
Cardiff University
Dynamic X-ray diffraction in solar energy materials design

Lauren is a researcher in the School of Chemistry at Cardiff University who is exploring how to optimise the efficiency of solar cells by designing novel materials which improve the conversion of solar energy. 

Solar energy is considered to be one of the most promising alternatives to traditional fossil fuels as we look for new ways to meet the world’s increasing energy needs. Solar cells, the component parts of solar panels, contain photovoltaic materials which produce an electrical current when exposed to light; converting sunlight into electricity. Current materials in solar cells do not absorb all of the visible light spectrum, therefore limiting how efficiently they can convert light into electricity. 

Lauren’s research aims to understand how these materials interact with sunlight and how the structure dictates the efficiency of it as a photovoltaic material. She uses solid-state structural chemistry methods to provide highly accurate information on the structure of a material recreating a 3D image of the individual atoms and molecules. Collecting these 3D images of a material while at the same time shining light on it will give valuable insight into how photovoltaic materials interact with light in 3D and in real-time. The information gathered via this method will aid in the design of new and improved photovoltaic materials to ultimately improve the efficiency of the conversion of solar energy into electricity.