Simon Leonard

PhD student – Solar Energy

I initially chose Manchester because it has the reputation of a great university with lots of interesting research going on and it’s a really fun city to live in.  I chose this role because I am really interested in science and how to address the world’s energy problems.

Research

I would summarise my role as working to try to improve the efficiency of solar cells in the most cost–effective way.  On a day to day basis, I am working to purposefully add efficiency-limiting impurities into silicon and to try to reduce the negative impact of the impurities.  The thing I enjoy most about my role is discovering things that have never been seen before. 

We have many collaborators both in this country and all over the world.  We are part of a Solar Silicon Society (SiSoC) where universities and industry work together to try to tackle relevant problems in the solar industry.

Future

In terms of impact on future energy landscapes, I believe that the research we undertake could help to improve the efficiency of solar cells made from the cheapest silicon, which could hopefully bring down the price of solar power to be more competitive with non-renewable energies.  In order to raise the visibility of the work we undertake and showcase it, I am involved in lots of outreach events as part of the NowNano Doctoral Training Centre where we hold events and visit schools, to teach and raise awareness about the research we do.

The cost of solar energy is reducing dramatically with improvements in silicon solar cell efficiencies and reduction in manufacturing costs.  However with cheap fossil fuels still prevailing the real game changer won’t happen until people really want green energy. That may all change soon with the increase in severe weather events like the recent flooding which are heavily linked with global warming.

I really enjoy undertaking research and after completing my PhD will look to carry on in the energy field, either at the university or within industry.

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