Solar Energy Research



The Solar Energy Research Group of the Department of Physics at the University of Pretoria is dedicated to conducting globally competitive, cutting-edge research in the area of thin film photovoltaics.

With increasing worldwide demand for renewable energy in mind, our mission is to improve existing thin film technologies as well as develop new photovoltaic materials from more earth abundant resources in order to fabricate highly efficient, low cost solar cells.

Our ability to complete each step of the device fabrication process; from substrate preparation, synthesis of nanoparticles absorber film coating and sintering, additional film and metallic grid deposition, and device characterization – within our own lab allows us to study all aspects of device performance and affords unique insight into the fundamental science behind each contributing factor.

Our collaborations with esteemed groups both in the South Africa, Continental and overseas provide opportunities to exploit highly sophisticated procedural and characterization methods in an interdisciplinary environment. Our graduate researchers benefit from international training and workshops designed to position them as leaders who will shape the future of the global solar economy.


Group Members


Group Leader


Prof Mmantsae Moche Diale


Research Associates

Dr Augusto Machatine (Group Theory and Optical Measurements)


PhD students

Fredjoe Nambala

Kelebogile Maabong

Joseph Simfukwe

Benard Mwankemwa


MSc students

Sebastien Mienie

Sipho Congolo

Abrie Cronje

Kyle Venter

Research Projects


1. Hybrid organic/inorganic solar cell


Development of high efficiency multi-junction organic solar cells using state-of-the-art techniques to fabricate novel Hybrid inorganic/organic solar cells on silicon. Hole conducting polymers like PEDOT:PSS, Perovskites and small molecule organic semiconductors are used on Si to produce HIOSC. In addition, detailed characterisation and analysis of the materials and devices using a wide range of structural, electronic, electrical and optical techniques is done.


2. Thin film solar cells


Solar cells based on CuZnSnSe2 absorbers show growing efficiencies and performance among all thin-film technologies. This is a kind of thin film material for solar cells used to replace CuInGaSe due to decrease in availability of In and Ga.  Main research topics include band gap and interface engineering of the CZTS absorber in order to find the optimum tradeoff between highest device efficiency and cost-effective mass production, development of processes for other constituent layers and multijunction (tandem) solar cells.


3. Biohybrid solar cells


The aim of this project will be to construct a novel Biohybrid "green" bio-photo-electrode with significant potential to outperform presently available electrode prototypes for photo-conversion and hydrogen production from water-splitting. Work is focused on nano-engineering of extremely stable natural photosynthetic complexes in order to specifically attach them to the electrodes obtained using hematite. Hematite is a cheap earth abundant semiconductor material with bandgap suitable for solar energy conversion. The performance of such a Biohybrid device will be further improved by adding metallic nanoparticles in order to selectively enhance absorption of the light-harvesting complexes, and, as a result, increase the product output of photo-conversion.


4. Nanostructures materials


The overall goal of this project is to develop plasmonic nanostructures using combined bottom-up self-assembly processes and standard top-down processes. Simple experimental techniques are available with different e-beam deposition techniques, including state-of-the-art Molecular Beam Epitaxy. The nanostructures will be used to enhance light harvesting in solar cell.

Research Infrastructure


Deposition techniques: Electron Beam Deposition, Molecular Beam Epitaxy, Sputtering Deposition Technique, Laser Spray Pyrolysis, Spin Coater, Dip Coater.

Electrical Characterization: Deep Level transient Spectroscopy (DLTS) and Laplace DLTS, Current-Voltage-Temperature (IVT) Measurements, Admittance Spectroscopy, Hall Measurements, Four Point Probe, Solar simulator, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy.

Surface Characterization: Atomic Force Microscopy, Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy, High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy, High Resolution Scanning Electron Microscopy.

Structural Characterization: X-Ray Diffraction Photoluminescence, X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, Infra-Red Spectroscopy, UV-Vis Ellipsometer.

Synchrotron Radiation Facility: South Africa participates in the European Synchrotron Facility at Grenoble. We have available beam line at Lawrence Berkeley Synchrotron Facility in USA.

Optical Characterization: Raman Spectroscopy, Ultrafast Pump Probe Spectroscopy.

Departmental Collaboration

  • Dr Tjaart Kruger in Biophysics

University Collaboration

  • Prof Egmont Rohwer in Chemistry

National Collaboration

  • Dr Eric Maluta, University of Venda
  • Dr Bonnex Mwakikunga, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
  • Dr Mandla Msimanga, Tshwane University of Technology

African Continent Collaboration

  • Dr Onesmus Munyati, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
  • Dr Margaret Samiji, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar- es Salaam, Tanzania

International Collaboration

  • Prof FCC Ling, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, China
  • Prof David Cahen, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
  • Dr Artur Braun, Empa, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Prof Raoul Frese, Vrye Universiteit of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands


1. M Diale, AS Erickson, D Cahen, 1st Africa PV conference, March 2014 proceedings

2. A Braun, M Diale, T Huthwelker, J van Bokhoven, Synchroton Radiation News, Meeting Reports 29(1) (2016) 13

3. AT Paradzah, FD Auret, MJ Legodi, E Omotoso, M Diale, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 358 (2015) 11116

4. K Maabong, Y Hu, A Braun, AGJ Machatine, M Diale, Journal of Materials Research, (2016) 1

5. SM Tunhuma, FD Auret, MJ Legodi, M Diale, Journal of Applied Physics, 119 (2016) 145705

Postdoctoral Positions available

Postdoctoral Fellow positions (2) are available for ambitious and productive applicants in the laboratory of Prof Mmantsae Moche Diale. The lab investigates novel research in photovoltaics materials and devices. Applicants should have strong background in one or more of the following disciplines: Physics, Chemistry or Material Science.

Candidates should have a PhD degree and be an excellent experimentalist.

Curriculum Vitae and three references should be sent to:


Research Positions

  • MSc – Different research projects in Nanostructured Materials for solar cell applications. The time range is from 1 to 2 years. No student will be allowed to study MSc more than 2 years.
  • PhD – Projects in Artificial Photosynthesis and Photovoltaic materials and devices. PhD is minimum 3 years and maximum 4 years. No student will be allowed to continue work within this group beyond 4 years.
  • Post-doctoral – Photovoltaic Solar Cells: Materials Physics and Chemistry of Halide Perovskites; Biohybrid solar cell, Nanostructured materials for Plasmonics solar cells.


We are interested in high calibre candidates who can bring excellent skills to this pressing area of research. Potential students must be reliable, self-starters and innovative. The PhD degree in this group is marked by publications and innovation. While it is possible to finish the PhD in 3 years, it is better to plan a 4 year PhD. No student will be allowed to continue in the group beyond 4 years.

To be admitted to the group, candidates must have MSc in Physics or Material Science. If your degree is in engineering, you must have passed basic courses in physics: Electrodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics and mathematical Methods of Physics at honours level. In addition, students must have passed an elective in Solid State Physics or Biophysics. A course in Labview program, or undergraduate chemistry and mathematics at third year level is an added advantage.

Postdoctoral candidates are most welcome. The candidates must be prepared to work within the major three areas of solar energy research. In addition, candidates must be innovative and be highly motivated. Funding is available for potential PhD candidates.



Funding is available for South African Students via the National Research Foundation. Other potential students can be funded through the competitive funds from the University of Pretoria. Potential students with funding from their countries are welcome. MSc applications are only for South African Students, unless you have your own funding. MSc is 2 years maximum.


Prof Mmantsae Moche Diale

Solar Energy Research Group

Department of Physics

University of Pretoria

Tel: +27 12 420 4418

- Outeur M Diale
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