CORDIS - EU research results

"Nanoscale Materials for Energy: Fundamentals, Applications and Safety"

Final Report Summary - PHD4ENERGY (Nanoscale Materials for Energy: Fundamentals, Applications and Safety)


One of Humanity’s most urgent and greatest scientific and technological challenges is the need for more efficient methods to access renewable energy sources and ways to reduce energy consumption. Nanotechnology opens up fundamentally novel routes to address these challenges. PhD4Energy focussed on the unique opportunities offered by III-V nanowires and molecular engineering, and (i) took decisive steps towards highly- efficient and cost-effective, NW solar cells, (ii) developed novel nanomaterials for cost effective, phosphor-free LEDs for blue and UV lighting with low energy consumption, (iii) established methods for highly efficient thermoelectric energy conversion in nanostructures, and contributed to (iv) pioneering the use of Nature’s choice of material (proteins) for direct chemical-to-mechanical energy conversion in artificial molecular machines. Furthermore, PhD4Energy concurrently evaluated the safety and sustainability of our novel nanomaterials and device fabrication.

The ESRs jointly targeted the scientific aims described above. The ESRs interacted broadly with scientists at NanoLund, both within and outside of PhD4Energy, and achieved their initial scientific aims. At the end of PhD4Energy, the ESRs are co-authors of 26 peer-reviewed journal articles (of which 6 in journals with impact factor >10), 6 additional articles have been submitted and 16 additional manuscripts are in the pipeline. PhD4Energy ESRs have also presented 50 talks or posters at scientific conferences, including two invited talks at major international meetings and one keynote talk. Peer reviewed publications are listed at

Key achievements include: (i) the realization of an Esaki diode in GaInP nanowires, a development which was further driven towards within-wire tandem geometry for high efficiency solar cells; (ii) the creation of dislocation-free AlGaN, flat, c-oriented platelets as a precursor for UV-LEDs; (iii) a detailed study of nonlinear thermoelectric phenomena in quantum dots, demonstrating that thermal-to-electric energy conversion as high as 70 % of the Carnot efficiency limit can be realized in practice; (iv) the development of physical understanding of the lightguiding effect in nanowires and its potential for biosensing and the study of molecular motors; and (v) observation of the uptake of originally airborne nanowires by biological cells, enabling future exposure studies relevant to the safety and sustainability of nanowire technology.

In order to train early-stage researchers in the skills and methods necessary for succeeding with the proposed research and its industrial applications, PhD4Energy built an innovative doctoral program (IDP) that with 6 partners from the private sector, combined high-level, interdisciplinary research with an extensive secondment program. In total, the ESRs performed 12 secondments with 10 partners and an average of 16 weeks duration.

Each secondment was planned in teamwork between the ESRs and the supervisors: through specific questions and advice from their supervisors, the ESRs became more aware of their career goals and the potential role of a secondment. An important element of this process was to empower the ESRs to actively help identify secondments host who would be most ideal for their career development. As a result, the ESRs chose hosts also in addition to the original Associated Partners that were defined at the project start. All 12 ESRs performed secondments, of which 8 were done in industry, 2 in non-profit institutions, 1 in a governmental organization and 1 at a major research infrastructure. Here are some quotes from the ESRs about their secondments:

“My secondment in industry was a great opportunity to expand knowledge about different types of solar cells and at the same type broaden perspective to development of solar cells beyond academic research facilities.”

“It was good to get some experience in working in another lab, and see how things are organized differently in industry.”

“My secondment was a great opportunity to increase my contact network and will lead to a lasting collaboration”

“It was good to work in an interdisciplinary environment”.

“In this stimulating environment I had a chance to work in a pharmacology lab while working on an interesting physical problem.”

Each ESR also gave a presentation on their secondment experience, and in this way spread both what they learned and their enthusiasm to their fellow PhD students inside and outside of PhD4Energy.

The IDP secondment program will have a lasting impact on the NanoLund research environment, and will serve a best-practice model for PhD education that effectively bridges the gap between academic research and interest of commercialization.

A key feature of the training program was the direct input of industry leaders on the students’ course menu, with the aim to enhance employability. The training program was embedded into the major materials science research hub at Lund in Sweden, comprising of NanoLund, the Center for Nanoscience at Lund University, the synchrotron MAX IV, and a cluster of spin-off companies that actively pursue commercialization of nanomaterials-based technology. The ESRs course work spanned from scientific skills to transferable skills. At the end of the project, the ESRs had on average 59 ECTS credits (minimum 13 - maximum 84). The variation is normal and due to the different graduation requirements at the ESRs home faculties.

A major success during the second period was the 2016 PhD4Energy Summer School on “Nanoscale Energy Converters”, attended by 57 graduate students and postdocs, and with outstanding lecturers, most of who stayed for the entire week, including a 2016 Nobel laureate.

As part of our outreach activities, we hosted high school students from schools in the area of Lund but also from Copenhagen in our labs and demonstrated current research. Also, the ESRs conducted visits to schools and introduce classes to nanotechnology. We cooperated with "Forskningsnätet i Skåne" and physics teachers to facilitate contacts with schools. A very popular event was the “Culture night” in Lund which traditionally takes place on the third Saturday in September each year and attracts some 50 000 visitors. The program offers 300-400 activities like music, dance, theatre, film, crafts, exhibitions and also science shows. For this event one of our ESRs prepared quantum dot solutions for demonstration of quantum effects and these solutions were afterwards borrowed by others to be used for various teaching activities and will be used for future outreach activities by other PhD students.

Project website:
Project coordinator: Prof. Heiner Linke, e-mail: