Congratulation to Dr Yue Hu who won the Norma and Draser Stoddart Prize
2017-04-10 17:00
Yue Hu, the latest recipient of the Norma and Fraser Stoddart Prize, tells us about her research during her time at Edinburgh.


My name is Yue Hu. I graduated as a PhD from the School of Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh in June 2016.  

I received my BS degree in Applied Chemistry from East China University of Science and Technology in 2012 during which I spent the last year as an exchange student in Queen's University Belfast. After that, I have been doing a PhD project supported by the China Scholarship Council in the University of Edinburgh.

From 2009-2011, I conducted a project supported by the National Undergraduate Innovative Programme. I was the youngest student who successfully received that funding at that time and the project led to one publication in the end with an excellent project prize from the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.

During my last year of undergraduate in Belfast I conducted a project about fluorescent switches with Prof. A.P de Silva. Part of this project was in the ACS video ‘Luminescent Photoinduced Electron Transfer (PET) Molecules for Sensing and Logic Operations’.

Since then, I was pursuing my PhD research focused on ‘Exploring Thiophene Oligomers and Ruthenium (II) Complexes for their use in Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells’. I have gained broad experience in the design, synthesis, characterisation and application of functional electroactive molecules. This has included organic and inorganic synthesis, optical spectroscopy, electrochemistry, spectroelectrochemistry, computational calculation (organic and inorganic systems, triplet calculation, dimer calculation), device fabrication and device characterization.

The overwhelming trend in designing sensitisers with high extinction coefficients is based on a donor-π spacer-acceptor (D-π-A) architecture and it is fashionable to make the donor part of D-π-A sensitizer bulkier and bulkier. We first synthesised a series of thiophene oligomers and 4H-cyclopenta[2,1-b:3,4-b’]dithiophene (CPDT) oligomers as sensitiser that didn’t contain typical donors and used them as effective sensitisers for liquid-state dye-sensitised solar cells with I-/I3- redox couple, Co2+/Co3+ electrolyte and also solid-state dye-sensitised solar cells.

These researches have been published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A and Journal of Physical Chemistry C, respectively. In addition, I was invited to write a review about the ‘Atypical organic dyes used as sensitizers for efficient dye-sensitized solar cells’ in Frontiers of Optoelectronics.

During my PhD time in Edinburgh, I maintained collaborations with the top-scientists in the world. In my second year, I had a short-term visit in Prof. Henry Snaith’s group in the University of Oxford to learn the fabrication and characterization of solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells as well as perovskite solar cells.

After that , I returned to Edinburgh and helped to set up the lab for cell fabrication. In my third year, I visited Dr. Saif Haque’s group in Imperial College and used transient absorption spectroscopy to study the regeneration process in devices. This led to a paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. In my final year, I spent two months in Prof. Michael Graetzel’s lab to employ the dyes that I synthesized in Edinburgh in the solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells. This visit yielded a paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Besides that, I also have collaborations with Prof. Yun Chi from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Prof. Lingamallu Giribabu from CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Prof. Jianli Hua from East China University of Science and Technology, Dr. Eli Zysman-Colman from University of St Andrews and Dr. Richard Fu from Northumbria University. Joint papers have been published in journals such as Journal of the American Chemical Society and Inorganic Chemistry.

In addition, I have been to a number of international conferences and presented poster or talk in most of them. I have also been selected to attend the Procter & Gamble PhD Seminar as well as the BASF Days Research event to visit their headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Only about 20 candidates were selected all over the whole Europe for both events.

The experience in Edinburgh now set me up as a postdoctor with Professor Hongwei Han in Michael Graetzel Centre for Mesoscopic Solar Cells in Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology since May 2016. The research is supported by the Postdoctoral International Exchange Programme and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation. The research interest in this group focuses on the perovksite solar cell based on a hole-conductor-free printable embodiment which employs a triple layer of mesoporous TiO2/ZrO2/carbon as scaffold and is infiltrated by perovskite as a light harvester.

While many perovskite solar cells based on other architectures suffer from a severe stability problem, the device we developed has been proven to exhibit excellent stability either under continuous illumination or in outdoor environment. My project includes developing new functional amino acids as the surface modifiers in perovskite solar cells and developing large-scale perovskite solar modules. The solar module work won me a poster prize in HOPV16 earlier this year and we have submitted the manuscript.

Besides research, I am also in charge of organising the group meetings (we have >20 people in the group), managing the students and purchasing the equipment. The first student I supervised has published a paper in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A and I have contributed in a few papers since joining the new group, such as Nano Energy and Journal of Physical Chemistry Letter.

I have just received my first research funding from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation and gave my first invited talk in the Asia Communications and Photonics Conference 2016. In addition, the collaboration between me and Edinburgh went on, one PhD student from Edinburgh came to visit during the summer and the collaboration would continue.

Extra Curricular Activities

Besides my research, I have had a busy extra-curricular life in Edinburgh.

For two years I have been the coordinator for a public engagement project The Solar Spark which includes workshops at science festivals and schools, training for school teachers, podcasts, animations, facebook, twitter, press articles and more. As well as activities within Scotland, we work to help organise and support outreach activities of other partner research groups in Universities across the UK.

Our website is very popular among the teachers. The animation we made that demonstrates the mechanism of dye-sensitised solar cells has been watched for 63,627 times so far. As a coordinator, my job includes recruiting and training the volunteers, communicating with our audiences, maintaining the website and facebook as well as organizing events.