Meet our team: ICFO

ICFO is the leading partner of the SOREC2 project, with active participation from members of the Organic Nanostructured Photovoltaics research group, led by Professor Jordi Martorell. Their primary focus lies in optimizing the tandem photovoltaic system, a core element within the SOREC2 technology. Dimitrios Raptis, a postdoctoral researcher at ICFO, provides insights into the team’s goals and challenges for the third chapter of our ‘Meet Our Team‘ series.

Hello Dimitrios, and thank you for being here. First of all, can you briefly introduce the ICFO’s Organic Nanostructured Photovoltaics research group?

Organic Nanostructured Photovoltaics group, led by Professor Jordi Martorell, consisted of three Post Doctoral researchers and seven PhD candidates. Our research focuses into implementing light-management strategies to maximize the solar absorption and conversion for nanostructured metal oxide photoelectrodes in tandem with organic and perovskite solar cells. To achieve these objectives, our efforts are also directed towards minimizing voltage losses in organic and perovskite solar cells while optimizing metal oxide photoelectrodes performance through materials engineering techniques. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting and CO2 reduction reactions are studied coupled by organic and inorganic cocatalysts. Other novel storage strategies like hydrogen storage in the graphene basal plane are also studied.

Which is your specific role and contribution to the project?

The core objective of the project is to directly transform sunlight, CO2, and water into high-value chemicals through the utilization of a Metal oxide/organic PV/perovskite PV triple tandem system. Our primary responsibility within the project is the optimization of these three specific parts of the system. In parallel, we focus on the study and experimental implementation of new nano-photonic structures to achieve such optimal transformation of sunlight. The nano-photonic configurations we implement are previously designed using several powerful computational tools.

Our group boasts extensive expertise in researching and experimentally implementing innovative nano-photonic structures for applications in solar cells and water oxidation photoanodes.

Dimitrios Raptis

What are the most important challenges you are facing in this project?

The accomplishment of SOREC2 goals requires the simultaneously optimization of several devices such as optical nanostructured configurations, metal oxide photoanodes for water oxidation, CO2 reduction cathode, transparent organic photovoltaic and perovskite solar cell. So, there are several challenging tasks. However, the involved researchers have the appropriate experience and skills optimize every part of the system. From our part the biggest challenge is probably the limitation of Voltage losses in the organic and perovskite solar cells. Specifically, the accomplishment of the needed Voltage without sacrificing current. Finally, obtaining a large current from the photoanode is another big challenge.

What are the main achievements so far?

We have achieved some very interesting results that make us optimistic for accomplishing the goals of the project. We have already achieved an efficiency enhancement of the metal oxide photoanode by an interface passivation strategy and we are planning to further improve the water oxidation performance by testing the use of several catalysts. Moreover, my colleagues managed to increase the open circuit voltage of the perovskite solar cell by the implementation of a nanophotonic structure. Optimizing the performance of the metal oxide/organic PV/perovskite PV system through materials engineering or the use of 1D and 3D nanophotonic structures are in progress.

What added value and experience can the ICFO team bring to the SOREC2 project?

Our group boasts extensive expertise in researching and experimentally implementing innovative nano-photonic structures for applications in solar cells and water oxidation photoanodes. Furthermore, our group has good skills in materials deposition and characterizations, crucial for fabricating highly efficient solar energy transforming devices. This experience can lead to an optimized tandem configuration which will convert efficiently sunlight and CO2 into added-value chemicals.

Why do you think it is important for your research team to take part in this project?

The fact that SOREC2 will develop a novel stand-alone up-scalable system for the direct conversion of sunlight and CO2 into C2-based compounds for energy storage could have a huge impact in achieving the goal of a net-zero CO2 EU economy. It is very important for us to use our skills and expertise for such a significant project. Furthermore, the outcome of the project will help us extend our knowledge in our working fields.

What is the most interesting part of the work you are doing in SOREC2? Why?

From my point of view, the most interesting part of the project is that in SOREC2 several fields of science are involved. Advanced chemistry, optics, materials science and electrical engineering work hand in hand to achieve the most efficient sunlight powered CO2 transformation into C2 products, adequate for a viable and safe long-term energy storage. Therefore, I believe that SOREC2 is a proof that the synergetic cooperation of scientists can provide a solution to relevant problems of the climate crisis.