Snigdha Lal

Matric Year: 2021 – Subject: DPhil Condensed Matter Physics – Scholarship: Indira Gandhi Scholar

Sustainability, especially sustainable energy development, has always been an issue in which I have found my purpose.

While pursuing my undergraduate education at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) in Chemical Engineering, I was involved with a student run biodiesel project that was my first foray into clean energy research. However, I truly found my niche as a research fellow at the National Centre for Photovoltaic Research and Education (NCPRE) while working on the subject of novel semiconductors.

As a research fellow at NCPRE, my work targeted the synthesis of large area novel semiconductors using industrially scalable techniques such as screen printing. In 2019, I began my Masters study in Chemical Engineering at TU Delft where my thesis was focused on the synthesis and characterization of tin based perovskites which are the most promising low toxicity alternative to lead based perovskite solar cells that are currently popular. In parallel, as part of the Honors program at Delft, I used computational chemistry to study the electrochemical properties of semiconductor quantum dots. Aside from academic research, I have briefly worked at the R&D department at PHYSEE (a sustainable technology startup) to develop luminescent greenhouse coatings that can convert UV light into photosynthetic active light that is more beneficial to certain plants.

Novel semiconductors have recently taken the world by a storm. A cheap and easy to synthesize material, they have been shown to lead to devices that can compete in efficiency with the ubiquitous silicon solar cells. The cost effective and simple manufacturing process makes them especially attractive to low-income countries such as India. However, the technology suffers from significant challenges such as stability and material toxicity that must be addressed before it can be competitively commercialized.

At Oxford, I will be continuing my research on novel semiconductors. As part of the Semiconductors Group at the Condensed Matter Physics department, my work will be aimed at understanding the fundamental properties of various perovskites which can then be used to improve their performance and make high efficiency devices. I am immensely excited to be affiliated with the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD) and to tap into the resources that come through this collaboration. I believe that novel semiconductors will be an important technological leap in the global transition to clean energy and through OICSD I want to use my research to create the greatest impact in the field of clean energy especially for countries such as India.

Where Next?