2017 Kavli Medal and lecture by Professor Henry Snaith FRS.
Professor Henry Snaith FRS undertook his PhD at the University of Cambridge, working on organic photovolatics, then spent two years at the EPFL, in Switzerland as a post doc working on dye-sensitized solar cells. He returned to the Cambridge to take up a Fellowship for Clare College in 2006, and moved to the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford Physics in 2007, where he now holds a professorship and directs a group researching in optoelectronics, specifically organic, hybrid and perovskite devices. His research is focused on developing new materials and structures for hybrid solar cells and understanding and controlling the physical processes occurring at interfaces.
The sun has been powering our planet for eons and solar energy is the route power source for the majority of life on earth. Human civilisation relies almost entirely on solar energy, but as a primary source of fuel we have thus far capitalised upon burning ancient stores of solar energy in the form of carbonized remains of plant or microorganisms, i.e. coal and oil. However, the sudden release of these ancient stores of energy comes with the price of releasing the carbon and other pollutants back into the atmosphere, which is driving both global warming and dangerously unhealthy air quality.
For the last 60 years scientist and engineers have been striving to make electronic devices which convert sun light directly into useable electricity. These photovoltaic cells are now so efficient that over the last 10 years, the cost of producing electricity from sun light is now cheaper in some places in the world than the production of electricity from coal fired power stations.
We are now therefore at a tipping point, where increased future power generation capacity will be dominated by photovoltaics, due to economics rather than environmental concerns. This lecture will explore key discoveries and advancements of a new family of photovoltaic materials, namely metal halide perovskites, which have emerged over the last few years and promise to deliver the next generation of more efficient and cheaper photovoltaic cells.
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The Kavli Meal and Lecture is awarded biennially (in odd years) for excellence in all fields of science and engineering relevant to the environment or energy.