Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation

Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation

Energy for the future – an introduction to Materials for energy capture and utilisation with Science Leader Professor Paul Kruger.

New technologies specifically targeted to solar energy capture and new materials that will move us towards realising a sustainable future will be in development.

Overview and Summary of Goals

Materials technology for energy harvesting and storage is the focus of this science area. The topics are low-cost active layers for photovoltaic cells, methane storage, and high-performance electrodes for batteries and solar cells. A unifying thread is the use of earth-abundant components. This research programme will deliver benefit to New Zealand in the form of new knowledge and manufacturing processes for advanced materials technology that could be taken up by New Zealand exporters. The full potential of solar energy will only be harnessed when photovoltaic (PV) devices have high performing active layers, coatings and transparent electrodes that are made from abundant materials by low-cost processes. The current generation of materials are either high efficiency or low cost but not both. Our goal is fundamental understanding of the limitations slowing down rapid advancement of these technologies and the development of new routes to fabrication. We co ntribute particular, unique advanced characterisation methods strengthening the world-wide energy research effort. Furthermore, we will develop new ways for mass fabrication of textured surfaces optimised for light capture. We have a 3-yr goal of >5% efficiency for PVs assembled at low temperature with non-toxic low-cost materials.

materials for energy capture and utilisationA second aspect of materials technology for future energy is the purification and storage of methane from natural gas and biogas. The principal difficulty with current technology is separating methane from carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Our work will focus on the development of crystalline “sponges” known as metal-organic framework compounds, aimed at capturing methane with high specificity and high sorption capacity. Longer-term, this research will provide a foundation for the application of porous media for methane storage on board methane-powered vehicles, during transportation, and in pipelines.

A third aspect of our work will create a completely new class of materials by using the metal-organic frameworks as templates to grow very highly porous metal and conducting polymer networks. These will find application as high-activity electrodes for batteries and solar cells, and in energy storage as supercapacitor electrodes.

Research Objectives


Research Staff


Principal Investigators

Professor Penny Brothers

Principal Investigator

Professor Keith Gordon

Principal Investigator

Professor Justin Hodgkiss

Principal Investigator

Professor Eric Le Ru

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor Nigel Lucas

Principal Investigator

Professor Shane Telfer

Principal Investigator


Associate Investigators


Associated Content

AMN8: The Solar Revolution

Oxford Prof Henry Snaith and VUW Assoc Prof Justin Hodgkiss discuss ‘The Solar Revoluation’ to the Royal Society in Wanaka, February 2017


AMN8: Perovskite solar cells might surpass current Silicon technology

Professor Henry Snaith, plenary speaker at AMN8 Queenstown, has a vision of how Perovskites shape the future of photovoltaic power generation. Read more Professor Snaith also spoke about Perovskites on RadioNZ. Read more Rebecca Sutton and Jesse Allardice, former Victoria University of Wellington students and now PhD students at Oxford and Cambridge, also talk about how […]

Energy Objective 2: Sustainability

The development of metal-organic frameworks will allow us to create new materials capable of gas storage and remediation; this major international challenge will lead to high impact science and leading edge training. The 6 year science specific high-level impacts for this objective are: A platform of porous materials capable of storing methane, purifying natural gas […]

Energy Objective 1: Solar Photovoltaics

The understanding of photovoltaics combined with the development of new materials and realisation of new fabrication technologies will allow us to contribute to this major international challenge and provide high impact results and leading edge training for our graduate students. The 6 year science specific high-level impacts for this objective are: New printable organic, quantum […]


Green Science – Jonathan Halpert

Story by Veronika Meduna With demand for solar energy on the rise globally, Jonathan Halpert is well positioned to make an impact. A lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and an Associate Investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute, Dr Halpert was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship—which means up to $800,000 over five […]

The MacDiarmid Institute’s New Direction

  The MacDiarmid Institute was founded twelve years ago around a vision of doing science collaboratively. New Zealand may not have been as big or as well-resourced as other countries, but our size and culture of openness made it an ideal place to pull multidisciplinary groups together to tackle unique science challenges. Some of the […]

Energy For The Future

Work at the forefront of human understanding is possible when scientists across the country work together, says Keith Gordon. The University of Otago Professor of Chemistry is the MacDiarmid Institute’s Science Leader in the vital area of Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation.  “There are a couple of things to think about with energy. First we […]