Dr Niraj Lai

Niraj Lai
Australain Renewable Energy Agency Postdoctoral Fellow
ANU Early Career Academic Fellow
Research Area:
BSc (ANU), PhD (Cambridge)

Dr Niraj Lal is an Australian Renewable Energy Agency Postdoctoral Research Fellow,  and ANU Early Career Academic Fellow. His interests are in nanophotonics for solar cell applications and science communication. In 2012 Niraj graduated as a Gates Scholar with a PhD in physics from the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. Prior to his PhD, Niraj worked as a bicycle courier in Perth and a travelling science presenter to primary school kids across regional WA with Scitech. Niraj graduated with a BSc in physics from the Distinguished Scholar Program at the ANU in 2007, winning the Angus Nicholson Honours Scholarship for passion and excellence in Science. He has appeared on BBC's Naked Scientists Radio, written a children's book about chaos theory, spoken as an invited speaker at international conferences and taught science at levels ranging from pre-school to post-graduate. Niraj was the 2013 ACT Young Tall Poppy of the Year and regularly gives public presentations about science and electricity - more info can be seen at his website here

Nanophotonics for high-efficiency solar cells

Perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells

Energy equity

Science communication


Niraj Lal 
BSc (hons) ANU, PhD Cambridge 

ANU Research page 
Google Scholar page 




Niraj N. Lal “Enhancing solar cells with plasmonic nanovoids", PhD in physics, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge July 2012 
shortlisted for the 2012 Salje medal 

Niraj N. Lal, “Sliver cells in thermophotovoltaic systems”, BSc honours thesis in physics, Australian National University 2007 
recipient of the Angus Nicholson Honours Scholarship in Science 

Journal articles

N.N. Lal,T.P. White, K.R. Catchpole “Optics and light trapping for tandem solar cells on silicon", IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics 4 (6), 2014 

B.W. Schneider, N.N. Lal, S. Baker-Finch, T.P. White, “Pyramidal surface textures for light trapping and antireflection in perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells”, Optics Express 22 (S6), 2014 

P. Hiralal, C. Chien, N.N. Lal et al “Nanowire-based multifunctional antireflection coatings for solar cells" Nanoscale 6 (23), 2014

T.P. White, N.N. Lal, K.R. Catchpole “Tandem solar cells based on high-efficiency c-Si bottom cells: top cell requirements for >30% efficiency”, IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics 4 (1), 208, 2014 

H. Butt, Q. Dai, N. N. Lal, T. D. Wilkinson, J. J. Baumberg, and G. A. J. Amaratunga, “Metamaterial filter for the near-visible spectrum", Applied Physics Letters 101, 083106, 2012

N. N. Lal, H. Zhou, J. K. Sinha, M. Hawkeye, P. N. Bartlett, G. A. J. Amaratunga, and J. J. Baumberg, “Using spacer layers to control metal and semiconductor absorption in ultrathin solar cells with plasmonic substrates", Physical Review B 85, 245318, 2012 

N. N. Lal, B. F. Soares, J. K. Sinha, F. Huang, S. Mahajan, P. N. Bartlett, N. C. Greenham, and J. J. Baumberg, “Enhancing solar cells with localized plasmons in nanovoids", Optics Express 19 (12), 3918, 2011 

T. S. Gershon, N. N. Lal, J. J. Baumberg, and J. L. MacManus-Driscoll, “Tuneable Mie-scattering from electrodeposited Cu2O nanoparticles", Journal of the Electrochemistry Society 159 (12), D747, 2012

R. B. Dunbar, T. Pfadler, N. N. Lal, J. J. Baumberg, and L. Schmidt- Mende, “Imprinting localized plasmons for enhanced solar cells", Nanotechnology 23, 385202, 2012

J. D. Speed, R. P. Johnson, J. T. Hugall, N. N. Lal, P. N. Bartlett, J. J. Baumberg, and A. E. Russell, “SERS from molecules bridging the gap of particle-in-cavity structures", Chemical Communications 47, 6335, 2011

N.N. Lal and A.W. Blakers ‘Sliver Cells in Thermophotovoltaic Systems’, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 93, 167, 2009

Conference presentations

N.N. Lal*, T.P. White, K.R. Catchpole, Photonics West, San Francisco 2014 

N.N. Lal*, B.F. Soares, J.K. Sinha, S. Mahajan, P.N. Bartlett, N.C. Greenham, F.G. de Abajo, J. J. Baumberg, 5th International Conference on Surface Plasmon Photonics, Korea 2011, invited oral presentation 

N.N. Lal*, B.F. Soares, J.K. Sinha, S. Mahajan, P.N. Bartlett, N.C. Greenham, F.G. de Abajo, J. J. Baumberg, Optics Society of America Congress 2010, Karlsruhe, Germany, invited oral presentation 

N.N. Lal, F. Huang* B.F. Soares, J.K. Sinha, S. Mahajan, P.N. Bartlett, N.C. Greenham, F.G. de Abajo, J. J. Baumberg, CLEO, Baltimore, USA, 2011, oral presentation 

N.N. Lal*, F. Huang B.F. Soares, J.K. Sinha, S. Mahajan, P.N. Bartlett, N.C. Greenham, F.G. de Abajo, J. J. Baumberg, UK Solar Energy Society Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2011, oral presentation 

N.N. Lal, G.P.R.M Christmann*, F. Huang, B.F. Soares, J.K. Sinha, S. Mahajan, P.N. Bartlett, N.C. Greenham, J. J. Baumberg, CLEO, San Jose, USA, 2010, oral presentation 

N.N. Lal* and A.W. Blakers, 45th annual ANZSES conference, Alice Springs, Australia, 2007, oral presentation. 


Public communication

N.N. Lal, “Butterfly Flo and the Everything Effect”, children’s story on a butterfly who learns about the Butterfly Effect of chaos theory 

N.N. Lal “Triple bottom line academia - the case for public engagement”, Pilularis Press, 2014 

N.N. Lal, L.J. Jones, “Noise vs signal - digital protest against bulk surveillance”, Online: noisevssignal.com, 2014 

N.N. Lal, T.P. White, K.R. Catchpole, “Plasmonic and dielectric enhancement of solar cells”, SPIE Newsroom, 2013 

N.N. Lal, “Catching energy from the sun”, BBC Radio Naked Scientists Article online, on How Solar Cells Work, 2010, 

N.N. Lal, “Finding the right energy level”, British Science Association Quarterly, on academic public engagement and the University of Cambridge Rising Stars Program, December 2010, 

N.N. Lal, A.W. Blakers, “Sliver cells in thermophotovoltaic systems”, SPIE Newsroom, 2009 

N.N. Lal “The greatest threat to democracy”, on electronic voting in Australia, Gadabout Press 2013 

Awards - total awarded grants, prizes and scholarships: AUD $547,000
ABC Top 5 Scientists Under 40 Shortlist 2015
Australian Academy of Science Nominee to the 2015 Nobel Laureates meeting in Lindau, Germany
Australian Institute of Physics Science Meets Parliament Delegate 2014
Australian National Famelab Inaugural Finalist, Perth, 2014;
Honorary Membership of University House, University Early Career Academic Fellowship, ANU, 2015-17;
2013 ACT Young Tall Poppy of the Year;
Student Research Prize and honorarium, W770,000 (~AUD$650) 5th International Conference on Surface Plasmon Photonics, Busan, Korea, May, 2011;
BBC Radio Naked Scientists show and online author 2010
Invited Presentation, 5th International Conference on Surface Plasmon Photonics, Busan, Korea, May, 2011;
University Medal for the Young Tall Poppy of the Year, Australian National University; 2013
Invited Presentation, Optics Society of America Annual Congress, Karlsruhe, Germany, June, 2010;
1st Prize, £150, UK Institute of Engineering and Technology Present Around the World Competition, Cambridge 2010;
Invited Presentation, Questacon National Science and Technology Centre, Centenary Celebration, Australia 2013;
1st place; University of Cambridge Rising Stars Presentation Competition, January 2010;
ABC Radio National Science Show appearances 2013-14,
UK Overseas Research Studentship, for outstanding academic merit and research potential; GBP £48,000 2009-12
ANU Angus Nicholson Honours Scholarship for passion and academic excellence in science, $5000, 2006-07
Oxford Famelab Wildcard 2012
Theoretical Physics Summer Scholarship, ANU, $2000, 2005
Australian National Science Week Seed Grants for science outreach to high-schools; $2600, 2013, 14,
Fellow and Research Grant Recipient, Cambridge Philosophical Society; GBP £500 2012;
Gates Cambridge Trust Research Grant, GBP £1000, 2012;
Gates Cambridge Scholarship, international full-cost scholarships awarded for ‘intellectual ability, leadership capacity and the desire to use knowledge to contribute to society’, GBP £40,000, 2009-12,
Professional activities
ANU University Early Career Academic Fellow 2015-16,
Honorary Member University House, Australian National University 2015-16;
Cavendish Graduate Student Committee 2009-2011;
President, Australian National University Physics Students Society, 2003;
Founder Cavendish Laboratory Purple Shin Football Competition 2009-12
Member: Australian Institute of Physics, International Solar Energy Society, Australian Science Communicators
Reviewer for: Energy and Environ. Sci. (15.49)*, J. Mat Chem (6.626), Solar Energy Mat. and Solar Cells (5.030), Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. (4.198), Appl. Phys. Lett. (3.794), Opt. Exp. (3.525), J. Select Topics in Quantum Electronics (3.465), Nanoscale Res. Lett. (2.418) and J. Appl. Phys. (2.185). (Note: ()* indicates the impact factor of the journal in 2015.)
Media appearances: Channel 7 News Aug 2014, ABC Melbourne Breakfast Radio Sept 2014, BBC Radio Naked Scientists guest and author, January 2011, Cambridge University Summer School Promotion Video 2010, ABC Radio National Science Show July, August 2014, Community Radio 2XX FM Science Presenter, 2013
Additional qualifications and extra-curricular activities
ACT Rural Fire Service Bush Firefighter, Rivers Brigade 2013-current; (PUAOHS001A, PUAFIR201A, PUAOPE013A, PUATEA001A, PUATEA004A, PUAFIR204A, PUAEQU001B)
Senior First Aid Certificate , Parasol (HLTFA311A) 2013-current;
Advanced PADI open-water diver 2005-current;
Working with Children Check ACT, 2012-current
State Emergency Services Volunteer, Rivers Brigade ACT, 2003-4;
Sporting: Captain of Football, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2010-11; Sports: Marathon, 3h:42m 2009, 5km Swimathon 1hr:50m 2012, Olympic Triathlon 2h:46m 2011; Surfing, mountaineering, soccer, cycling, triathlons
Musical: Drummer, Lazy Harry’s (Aust. Folk/Bluegrass), EP release Nov 2014, Saxophonist, Valence Band (Funk, Pop, Contemporary Jazz), 2010-12; Guitarist with Garance Monfort (Folk, Jazz, French traditional), 2011-12; Founding Director and leader, Raio de Sol Canberra Community Samba Band (Contemporary Percussion) 2013-15; Drummer, Arco Iris Samba Band (Brazilian Samba Percussion), 2010-12
Children’s Books
Author ‘Butterfly Flo and the Everything Effect’ – children’s story about chaos theory, in submission for publication.
Described as: ‘a charming moral tale in the classic tradition of children’s stories’
– Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge.
Currently writing ‘Henry the Emu that could Fly’ – about an emu that learns to fly by jumping so far that the earth curves away from him – the principle of gravitational orbit.


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