A SCIENTIST who has helped develop a cheaper form of solar power has been named one of the top 10 scientists of the year.
Dr Henry Snaith, of the University of Oxford, is the only UK-based scientist to make the list, put together by the international journal Nature.
Dr Snaith and his team, based between the university’s department of physics and Oxford Photovoltaics (PV), at Begbroke Science Park, have created cheap and efficient perovskite-based solar cells, which can be integrated into the glass fronts of buildings.
Dr Snaith, 35, from Abingdon, said: “I am very proud of what we have achieved and it is fantastic to have been recognised so highly.”
The development means using the perovskite-based cells could help bring down costs of solar power in the future.
Dr Snaith explained: “We started work on the material about two years ago and over the past year and a half there have been remarkable developments.
“The performance has improved significantly, up to 15 per cent, and it will compete with the highest performing materials. The trajectory is very exciting.”
He added: “Eventually the cost of the materials will be incredibly inexpensive. There is very little energy involved in these solar cells and the costs should be a fraction of the costs of existing solar cells.
“It would pay back economically within a fraction of the time. At the moment it takes about 20 years to pay back the cost, without government initiatives, and with this it could pay off after five years.
“So after five years you could have free electricity.”
Kevin Arthur, Oxford PV’s founder and chief executive officer, said: “We are absolutely delighted for Henry and his team at the university and extremely proud of our work with them.”
The firm has scooped several awards at the 2013 Solar UK Industry Awards, including the British Renewable Energy Association’s Innovation Award, the UK Business Angels’ Best Early Stage Investment in a Disruptive Technology Business Award and the Solar Award for Excellence: BIPV Innovation.
Other scientists on the list include Feng Zhang, a biologist who helped develop a powerful genome-editing technique, and Deborah Persaud, a virologist who helped establish that a baby born with HIV had been cleared of the virus.
MATHS IS FUN
A researcher at the University of Oxford has got through to the UK finals of a science competition.
Jonny Brooks-Bartlett has beaten off nine competitors to win FameLab’s Oxford Regional Final. He will now go to the Famelab UK finals in London on April 23.
He is a mathematician and researcher at the university’s department of biochemistry and had three minutes to show how fun and interesting maths can be.
His presentation explored how maths is used in everything from cutting out the crackle on the telephone to discovering new drugs.