2016 Faraday Medal and prize of the Institute of Physics

Professor Jenny Nelson, Imperial College London, for her pioneering advances in the science of nanostructured and molecular semiconductor materials.

Picture of Jenny Nelson

Professor Jenny Nelson is distinguished for the development of physical models, experimental probes and simulation tools to discover and exploit relationships between the performance of photovoltaic devices and the optoelectronic properties of the materials from which they are made.

She has driven advances in photovoltaic devices based on quantum semiconductor heterostructures, nanocrystalline oxides, conjugated molecular materials and hybrid organic-inorganic composites. Through analysis of the electronic, optical and structural properties of these materials she has explained device performance, developed physical models and created experimental, analytical and numerical tools for characterisation, diagnostics and design. She has realised record device performances and developed improved fabrication processes, attracting sustained industrial interest.

Her early research on semiconductor nanostructures applied to solar photovoltaics engendered a deep understanding of solar energy conversion in non-conventional systems, which has driven her subsequent research. This led to a popular and influential textbook, The Physics of Solar Cells. She progressed to address the fundamental mechanisms controlling photovoltaic conversion in solution processable semiconductors, developing the foundations for cheaper solar cells. She first exposed the critical role of trap states in controlling charge transport and recombination in sensitised metal-oxide solar cells and developed quantitative models of device function that incorporate such disorder. She then led the physics and materials science of organic and hybrid solar cells, making important advances in the impact of microstructure on devices, and chemical structure – optoelectronic property relationships.

She was awarded the Institute of Physics Joule Prize and Medal in 2009, a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award in 2010, and the Royal Society Armourers and Brasiers’ Company Prize and Medal in 2012, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014. She has contributed to growth of her field with 34 out of 45 former students and research associates progressing to jobs in related science and encourages strong engagement with industry through Imperial’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment.