Loughborough Uni: 2011-15, Beauchamps Sixth Form 2008-10; Beauchamps High School: 2003-08
FdSc (Foundation in Science), BSc (Bachelors of Science)
Laboratory intern; Glastonbury parking attendant; Finance intern; HR analyst; Barman; Dishwasher
Favourite thing to do in science I love finding the rules that link different things together. Changing one property to be what you want can make one, two, or even ten others worse without you meaning to. I like learning how things interact, to the point where you can predict what the result will be before you change them. Once you know the rules, you make the changes you want without any nasty side effects!
Studying materials that absorb light and convert it to electricity
My Google Scholar page: http://bit.ly/2mUFdln
The aim of my research is to make it super cheap and super easy for companies to make solar panels so that its cheap for everyone to buy for themselves.
Silicon is used in around 90% of solar panels, however it takes a long time and a lot of energy to make one. If the aim is to reduce carbon emissions, using lots of carbon-heavy energy isn’t a good idea!
I study CZTS – a semiconductor made from Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Tin (Sn) and Sulphur (S). We mix these powders together with some liquids in a vial, leave it for a couple of days to dissolve, and then spray it onto hot glass to make a thin film. These films are really thin – 1/500th of 1mm!
Next, I shine light on them to see how efficient it is at converting it to electricity. I do different tests to see what is and isn’t working, and then I change my method to see if I can make the bad bits good (and keep the good bits good!)
My Typical Day
Mixing solutions, spraying them to make thin films and then testing them.
To make a solar cells takes three-four days, so what i do each day depends on where I am in the process.
Typically I will come in in the morning and start mixing a solution, or if one has been mixing for two days then I will deposit it (takes around an hour, depending on how many times I deposit).
After deposition, I do a heat treatment to crystallise my films, and then test them. Sometimes I use a Scanning Electron Microscope (an SEM – a microscope that uses particles instead of light to see things) to look at what Ive made.
Once I have results, I talk about them with the lecturer supervising me, and we decide what went well or what didn’t, and what I can do differently next time.
Other than that, there is lots of waiting for machines to do their thing, so I can sneak in some Youtube videos (only when I don’t have anything else to do though!)
What I'd do with the money
Make an awesome animation about solar cells!
My favourite Youtube channel ever is Kurzgesagt (you should DEFINITELY check them out)- they talk about big, complex topics but make it super simple to understand. Also, their animations are excellent
I would put the prize money towards commissioning a video about photovoltaics by Kurzgesagt, so that more people can learn about solar cells.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chirpy, energetic, curious (as suggested by my fellow researchers)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I will always have a soft spot for Panic! At The Disco
What's your favourite food?
I could eat pizza until I turned into one
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A hiking trip across Peru, ending at Machu Picchu
What did you want to be after you left school?
I have always wanted to be a scientist (more specifically, to wear a lab coat every day)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was a little angel (although I did break a window once..)
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Visited and had lectures at the Diamond Light Source is Oxford, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
As a kid, Professor Oak from Pokemon. As a teenager, my physics teacher
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I’ve always fancied myself as an actor
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) To have an eidetic memory, 2) To speak a foreign language (Italian or German), 3) To play an instrument (violin)
Tell us a joke.
My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Terrible.
This is the automated stage that Ive assembled and programmed, which will take a lot of the error out of my work (by taking me out of it!)
Two stages are perpendicular to each other, and the nozzle can move up and down. The nozzle is ultrasonic, meaning it vibrates whatever Im spraying apart, into a really fine mist. I then use a gas to push the mist onto the heated glass below.
This is the sprayer in position in a fume hood, which sucks away anything dangerous produced while depositing. Here you can see the hotplate in place, which heats up the glass I spray onto.
This is me testing one of the completed solar cells. We divide it up so that we can test lots of times on a single sample.
This is my housemate Tom (also in my office) having his afternoon nap, surrounded by some of the other PhD students in my office.
Its not all work!
This is me in the lab. Enough said.