Professor Nick Cowern
Professor of Nanoscience / Nanotechnology

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5636
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 8180
  • Address: E4.33
    School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
    Merz Court
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU, UK


I am a physicist with interests in understanding, modeling and developing advanced materials, processes and device concepts for nanoelectronics and photovoltaic technology.

Together with my research team I have developed some of the leading process simulation models for Technology Computer Aided Design (TCAD) of Si and SiGe based devices.  Our models, which are routinely implemented in industry-standard TCAD tools, have been shown to predict down to 32 nm CMOS device parameters with minimal calibration.  They are now being used by industry worldwide to explore and develop 22 nm technology and beyond.  Further model development includes a new continuum theory of charged species diffusion in solids, which will allow increased simulation accuracy. 

We are currently applying these models to full (process and device TCAD) evaluations of commercial c-Si photovoltaic technology aiming at cost neutral enhancements of conversion efficiency.  This work is complemented by experimental and modelling studies of future generation PV, in particular new nanostructured material combinations to enhance efficiency and support cost reductions for thin film solar cells.

Physical models for electrically active defects in Si and Ge based materials and devices are being developed in the EU FP7 ATEMOX project.  Multi-scale (first-principles and continuum) models for gettering processes in advanced solar cells are being developed in collaboration with Newcastle colleagues and an international technology partner.

Roles and Responsibilities

Lead Emerging Technology and Materials Research Group


MA (Oxford University), DPhil (Oxford University)

Previous Positions

  • Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, Surrey University, UK, 2001-2007
  • Visiting professor, Southampton University, UK, 1998-2001
  • Adjunct professor, Aarhus University, Denmark, 1996-1998
  • Principal Scientist, Philips Research, Netherlands, 1987-2001
  • MTS, GEC Research, Wembley, UK, 1985-1987
  • Senior scientific officer, Joint European Torus, Culham, UK, 1985
  • Senior scientific officer, AEA Technology, Harwell, UK, 1976-1985


Materials Research Society, UK Institute of Phyics

Honours and Awards

Materials Research Society Meeting Chair 2001

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair

International committee-elected professorship at Aarhus University


English, Dutch

Nick is a member of the Emerging Technologies and Materials research group.

Research Interests

My principal research interests are in the structural and thermodynamic properties of condensed matter: diffusion, defects, nucleation, nonequilibrium phase transformations and self organisation in electronic and opto-electronic materials. Active research outputs include enhancements to fundamental scientific understanding through theory and experiment, and advances in technology simulation models used in state-of-the-art commercial TCAD tools. A key application is silicon-based materials and processes for low cost, high efficiency photovoltaics.

Other Expertise

Modelling that captures key elements and interactions within complex systems.

Current Work

Materials research:

  • Experimental and theoretical analysis of composition and stress effects on impurity doping in advanced semiconductor materials
  • Multiscale modelling of charged defect transport in solids
  • Thermal evolution of electrically active defects in silicon (and their effects in nanoelectronics and PV)
  • Modelling of gettering processes in thin film c-Si photovotaics
  • Integrated process and device modelling for Si PV efficiency enhancement
  • Research on fabrication of multicrystalline silicon thin films 

Future Research

  • Research towards ultra low cost silicon based photovoltaic
  • Research on novel quantum structures for high efficiency photovoltaics

Research Roles

Research management and active research in a wide network of international and UK collaborations

Industrial Relevance

Recognized world leading expertise in integrated TCAD (predictive process and device simulation) with a recently developed focus on PV technology. This provides the PV industry with a vitally important fast track to efficiency enhancement (see for example a recent review article from Newcastle in Photovoltaics International, Edition 12)