blue light-emitting diode

Cambridge has received £1.4 million funding to progress innovative energy solutions.

This exciting project using world-leading science from Cambridge and UCSB should result in new types of lighting, solar cells and materials for transport.

Professor Colin Humphreys

Research Councils UK (RCUK) has announced funding of £12 million to be shared among 10 UK institutions to support collaborations between British universities and institutions in China, India and the USA. The £1.4 million Science Bridges Award to the University of Cambridge will help to take existing research through to prototype products in the field of energy-related materials.

Cambridge’s team is led by Professor Colin Humphreys in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, with Professor Tony Cheetham in the same department, Professor Sir Richard Friend in the Department of Physics, and Professor Ian White and Dr Vikram Deshpande in the Department of Engineering. It will build upon existing collaborations with the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Five key themes are to be tackled with the principal aim of reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of energy materials such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solar cells.

Professor Humphreys’ research on gallium nitride (GaN)-based LEDs recently reached a landmark with the development of a new technique to grow GaN on large silicon wafers, reducing the cost of the LED chip tenfold compared with previous approaches. The RCUK funding will continue this work, as well as build innovative multi-layer solar cells, and LEDs coated with novel phosphors to improve colour rendering for lighting in the home. Professor Cheetham, who leads the phosphor research, recently joined Cambridge from UCSB.

New approaches will be developed to make the harnessing of solar energy more viable. Cambridge-based researchers will focus on developing low-cost, moderate-efficiency, organic solar cells; whereas UCSB-based researchers will concentrate on developing more-efficient cells. Cambridge will also address low-cost manufacturing through the development of printing methods for organic film deposition, and will develop novel ultralight materials based on polymers, metals and composites for use in transportation.

‘This exciting project using world-leading science from Cambridge and UCSB should result in new types of lighting, solar cells and materials for transport,’ explained Professor Humphreys. ‘This award will translate research into prototype devices that will save energy, reduce carbon emissions, and be not only cheaper but also better quality than existing devices.’

Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, added: ‘The RCUK Science Bridges Awards are an excellent example of how the UK is encouraging research which has both strong international collaborations and close links with business.’

For more information, please contact Professor Colin Humphreys (


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