Professor Flavell's research interests are centred on the electronic structure of complex metal oxides and chalcogenides, including catalysts, photocatalysts and photovoltaics - particularly those of interest in the manufacture of 'next-generation' solar cells. Her research makes extensive use of world synchrotron sources for this work. Much of this work is aimed at developing an understanding of the link between the electronic structure of a material and its end application. it is aimed at answering questions such as 'how can we make solar cells cheaper and more efficient?', or 'can we use oxide nanoparticles to make better fuel cells?'
Techniques used include resonant photoemission, X-ray pnotoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) - including near-ambient pressure techniques, scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and near-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (NEXAFS). Resonant photoemission and adsorption studies have been used to explore the stabilisation of transition metal ions in unusual valence states at complex oxide surfaces. This has been complemented by extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) studies of defect structure. Prof Flavell's work has included studies aimed at understanding the electronic structure of the pn junction at the heart of TiO2-based dye sensitised solar cells. The energy level line-up in solar cells containing light-harvesting quantum dots has been established using SR at European sources including SOLEIL, MAXlab and ELETTRA. Synchrotron-excited depth-profiling XPS has been used to study the core-shell structure of nanoparticles and to study their surface reactions. Prof Flavell has established a programme of fs laser-SR ‘pump-probe’ studies of electron-hole pair dynamics in oxide nanoparticles and photovoltaics - this currently includes studies of fast charge transport in nanoparticles destined to be used in new solar cells for rooftop microgeneration.
Collaborators in this work include the University of Oxford, King's College London, SOLEIL (Paris), MAXlab (Lund), ELETTRA (Trieste), RMIT (Melbourne) and ISSSP (Minsk).