2018 Nevill Mott Medal and Prize

Professor Laura Herz of the University of Oxford for her ground-breaking research on the fundamental mechanisms underpinning light harvesting, energy conversion and charge conduction in semiconducting materials.

2018 Nevill Mott Medal and Prize Laura Herz

Professor Laura Herz is a world-renowned leader in the study of fundamental light-harvesting and energy-conversion pathways in semiconducting materials. She has made ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of new semiconducting materials, nanostructures and pi-conjugated molecules. Such materials are fascinating from the point of view of fundamental science – and are also crucial components for an increasing number of applications such as photovoltaic cells, optoelectronic devices and chemical and biological sensors.

Laura Herz has led seminal photophysical investigations of the electronic properties of hybrid perovskite semiconductors. These ‘wonder materials’ are the basis of a new generation of solar cells with power-conversion efficiencies rivalling those of established systems such as silicon photovoltaics – and understanding their physics is essential to their development.

Her pioneering investigations showed that the long charge-carrier diffusion lengths that underpin the startling efficiency of these materials arise from significantly non-Langevin charge recombination. She also discovered that light emission from these materials is homogeneously broadened, opening the possibility of applications in ultrafast lasers.

In further ground-breaking work she demonstrated the scientific principles underlying electron-phonon coupling in these materials, allowing the research field to assess the fundamental limits to the charge-carrier mobility of these materials. In addition, her work has given important insights into charge recombination mechanisms, electrical doping, amplified light emission, structural phase transitions and alloying. Her seminal articles and key reviews have become highly-cited foundations in this field.

Professor Herz is also distinguished as an international leader of research into electronic processes in artificial bio-mimetic light-harvesting systems. She recently showed that pi-conjugated porphyrin nanorings with diameters of up to 10nm are capable of sustaining fully delocalised electronic excited states. These systems were further discovered to support ultrafast energy-transfer processes that exceed those occurring in the best natural light-harvesting systems. These discoveries have opened the possibility of combining the best of both natural and man-made worlds in molecules that exhibit highly efficient light harvesting and also permit control over structure to facilitate their integration into electronic devices.

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