The greatest moral and scientific challenge of our times is the climate crisis. Our group pursues research to address this crisis by creating new interfaces between basic science and applied science. In close collaboration with experimental groups, we develop complex theoretical methods for mitigating solar cell degradationincreasing solar cell efficiency, developing magnets for hybrid car engines, and inventing photovoltaic desalination.

group photo of the members of the Zimanyi group

Research Projects

mitigation of solar cell degradation

Mitigating Solar Cell Degradation

What: Heterojunction (HJ) Si solar cells have world record efficiencies approaching 27%. However, these Si HJ solar cells have not yet been widely adopted by the market because they exhibit a performance degradation of about 1%/year, twice as high as standard cSi cells. Our group is adapting the knowledge developed via studying glassy systems to understand the leading degradation processes, with the aim of mitigating them.

How: LAMMPS molecular dynamics, Quantum Espresso DFT, Nudged Elastic Band method.

increasing nanoparticle solar cell efficiency

Increasing Solar Cell Efficiency

What: Our “Full Spectrum Boost Project” focuses on solar cells made of colloidal nanoparticles. Absorption is boosted at low energies by the Intermediate Band process and at high energies by Carrier Multiplication. Our cells transcend QCD: the Quantum Confinement Dilemma. Transport is modeled as ab initio-based Monte Carlo/Marcus hopping or Boltzmann theory.

How: LDA, TD-DFT, GW, BSE, Lanczos methods, Molecular Dynamics, Kinetic Monte Carlo

magnets for hybrid car engines

Magnets for Hybrid Car Engines

What: We are exploring the reversal mechanism of hard permanent magnets in order to improve their utility for alternative energy purposes. We study the competition of domain wall propagation and nucleation in sintered and nanostructured rare earth magnets. We are analyzing hard-soft composites.

How: Finite element LLG, FORC analysis: mean field + local corrections, OOMMF, analytic methods in one dimension, elastic rubber band method for barriers

photovoltaic desalination ion concentration over time

Photovoltaic Desalination

What: We have invented photovoltaic desalination. We have provided the proof of concept experimentally. We are performing extensive simulations to analyze the dynamics of the desalination/flushing cycle, from the atomistic scale to simulating individual channels to building an effective medium theory for the device.

How: Finite element hydrodynamics, COMSOL hydrodynamics, effective medium theory

glassy systems

Glassy Systems

What: We are exploring the slow dynamics, the glassy phases and memory and aging effects of spin glasses, dislocation systems and Coulomb glasses. We also analyze the formation of avalanches and their statistics. Using scaling analysis, we research the conditions which give rise to Self Organized Criticality.

How: Parallel tempering and other accelerated Monte Carlo techniques, Scaling analysis



What: We are exploring the revolutionary memristor paradigm that promises to redefine the architecture of computers. We study the electronic transport with explicit inclusion of underlying vacancy dynamics. We treat the long range Coulomb interaction with care. We focus on the hysteretic switching phenomena and explore the role of oxide tunneling barriers

How: Molecular Dynamics, Long range interactions

What’s New

Jun. 2022 Our paper on using Machine Learning to construct the Si-H interatomic potential for the study of solar cell degradation appeared.

Jan. 2022 Our paper on solar cell degradation was selected as one of the top 20 papers (out of thousands of submissions) of the SiliconPV 2022 conference in Konstanz and will be published prominently.

Nov. 2021 Our group got 4.8 million CPU hours from the supercomputing center NERSC. Combined with the 128 nodes we own at the UC Davis computer center gives us a solid foundation for our heavy duty numerical work.

Oct. 2021 Our group received a new $300k grant from DOE to continue our studies of solar cell degradation, aided by Machine Learning.

Jun. 2021 Chase Hansen just graduated from UC Davis with a Ph.D.! Congratulations, Dr. Hansen! Chase decided to be a quant in Seattle, calculating financial risk! Chase, you were the senior student in our group for four years, a real leader. You got 7 papers to your name: a truly remarkable achievement! You will be missed!

Jun. 2021 Davis Unruh just graduated from UC Davis with a Ph.D.! Congratulations, Dr. Unruh! You got 8 papers to your name: a truly impressive achievement! You greatly increased our group's standing in the physics community! You made us proud! Davis already started his postdoc position at Argonne National Lab.

Jun. 2021 Our paper "From Femtoseconds to Gigaseconds: The SolDeg Platform for the Performance Degradation Analysis of Silicon Heterojunction Solar Cells" was published in the high impact factor journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Apr. 2021 Our paper on "TRIDENS: A Hierarchical Transport Simulator for defected nanoparticles solids" was published in the Nature group Scientific Reports. Our paper "Percolative Charge Transport In Binary Nanocrystal Solids" was published in Phys. Rev. B.

Mar. 2021 New graduate students Zeke Zhao, Andrew Diggs, Adam Goga, and Zack Crawford all decided to join our group. Welcome to the next generation of our group!

Jan. 2021 Our group secured a large, 4 million CPU hours allocation at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center NERSC.

Nov. 2020 Our paper "Disordered Mott–Hubbard Physics in Nanoparticle Solids: Transitions Driven by Disorder, Interactions, and Their Interplay" was published in Nano Letters.

Sep. 2020 Group Alum Helmut Katzgraber became Senior Manager of the Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab! Very exciting! Helmut carved out a unique place for himself in the quantum computing revolution!

June 2020: Group alum Frank Wilhelm just got the position of Director of the new Institute for Quantum Computing Analytics at the German national Research lab in Jülich.

June 2020: Group alum Dustin Gilbert, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, also working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was just awarded the prestigious CAREER award by the DOE, given to the most promising young faculty in the US.

May 2020: We have just upgraded our computational infrastructure: we acquired a cluster of 128 CPUs, housed in the UC Davis supercomputer center FARM.

May 2020: Our group was awarded a large, 2.5M CPU hour computer time allocation on the National Energy Research Scientific Computer Center for our heterojunction degradation project.

May 2020: Our group received a $600k grant from the National Science Foundation for our collaboration with Adam Moule and Matt Law on Scanning Transmission Electron Tomography of Nanoparticle Solids, with emphasis on transport.

January 2020: Our group received a $250k grant from the Solar Energies Technology Office of the DOE for our new research project to analyze the long time degradation of Si solar cells. Our theoretical effort is performed in close collaboration with the experimental group of Mariana Bertoni of Arizona State U.

Jul 2019: Group alum Luman Qu was hired by Google as a software engineer. We are proud of you, Luman!

Jul. 2019: Our patent on photovoltaic desalination, with co-inventors Luman Qu and GTZ has just been issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

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