Diego Colombara's research is devoted to the development of template-free micropattern electrodeposition, with exploratory applications in photovoltaics (Nanostructured Solar Cells Laboratory) and water splitting (Nano Materials for Energy Laboratory).




Diego Colombara is a Marie Curie cofund research fellow at INL, Quantum Materials Science and Technology. His research at INL is devoted to the development of template-free micropattern electrodeposition, with exploratory applications in photovoltaics (Nanostructured Solar Cells Laboratory) and water splitting (Nano Materials for Energy Laboratory). 

Diego’s interests are on functional materials and include non-molecular solid state chemistry (multinary phase formation, defect chemistry, diffusion phenomena), thermodynamics and kinetics of solid-gas equilibria (phase stability and compatibility, reactive annealing, chemical vapour transport) and (photo)electrochemical processes (analytical and synthetic routes for thin films, microstructures and surfaces and energy conversion). 

He obtained his Chemistry degree from the University of Genova (Italy) with a Master project carried out under Erasmus at Cranfield University (UK). Diego was awarded his PhD by the University of Bath (UK) in 2012 with a thesis on chalcogenides for solar cells supervised by Prof. Laurie Peter. He then moved to Luxembourg, where he spent three years as a postdoc on the FP7 project SCALENANO, focusing on photoelectrochemistry as a predictive and monitoring tool for solar cell performance. In 2015 he received a CORE Junior grant by the FNR Luxembourg allowing him to be the principal investigator of GALDOCHS, a two-year project on gas phase alkali doping of chalcogenide semiconductors. GALDOCHS has involved five partners from Luxembourg, Italy, France, UK and Switzerland and has helped to unveil some fundamental consequences of extrinsic doping in Cu(In,Ga)Se2, the world’s most efficient thin film photovoltaic technology.



The Cofund project

Surface patterning is essential for technologies spanning microelectronics, sensing, catalysis, photonics, energy storage and conversion. However, it is generally time consuming and energy intensive. The aim of Diego Colombara’s project is to develop a template-free route for micropattern fabrication yielding higher throughputs at lower costs. As a proof of concept, patterns produced within the project will be specifically targeted for two applications that are currently investigated at INL: (1) micro-concentrator solar cells [1] studied at the Laboratory for Nanostructured Solar Cells (LaNaSC) group led by Sascha Sadewasser and (2) photoelectrochemical (PEC) water reduction [2] studied at the Nanomaterials for Energy Storage Conversion and Sensing (NESC) group led by Lifeng Liu. (1) Cu(In,Ga)Se2 micro-concentrator solar cells are a new generation of photovoltaic systems offering several advantages over the conventional thin film architectures. The reduced material utilization translates into intrinsic material savings, while the light concentration translates into efficiency enhancement in a win-win fashion. Of course, these advantages come at the expense of an increased manufacturing complexity: the micropattern fabrication. That’s where Diego’s project comes into play. (2) Si nanowires (SiNW) decorated with cobalt phosphide offer an efficient route to hydrogen production from photoelectrochemical water splitting. However, the lifetime of the photocathodes was shown to be limited by the progressive oxidation of the uncoated sides of the SiNW. Diego aims to employ the template-free patterning technique to obtain microwire (MW) arrays with lower feature density (larger wire-to-wire distance), in an attempt to prevent bundling of wires and increase the cobalt phosphide surface coverage.

[1]    S. Sadewasser, P. M. P. Salomé, and H. Rodriguez-Alvarez, “Materials efficient deposition and heat management of CuInSe2 micro-concentrator solar cells,” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, vol. 159, pp. 496–502, Jan. 2017.

[2]    X.-Q. Bao, M. F. Cerqueira, P. Alpuim, and L. Liu, “Silicon nanowire arrays coupled with cobalt phosphide spheres as low-cost photocathodes for efficient solar hydrogen evolution,” Chem. Commun., vol. 51, no. 53, pp. 10742–10745, Jun. 2015.