Photovoltaic solar energy: from the photoelectric effect to global power generation and beyond

By . Published on 23 February 2017 in:
February 2017, , ,

This 2017 Kavli Medal and Lecture will be given by Professor Henry Snaith FRS on 26 April 2017 at The Royal Society in London, UK.


The sun has been powering our planet for eons and solar energy is the root 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 micro-organisms, 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, scientists and engineers have been striving to make electronic devices which convert sunlight directly into usable electricity. These photovoltaic cells are now so efficient that over the last 10 years, the cost of producing electricity from sunlight 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 that have emerged over the last few years and promise to deliver the next generation of more efficient and cheaper photovoltaic cells.

Complete information about the lecture can be found on the website of The Royal Society.

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