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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Understanding the Challenges in Developing Sustainable Solar Energy Options

24th February 2011, 20:00 to 21:00, The Penthouse Suite, Collingwood College, Professor Paul O'Brien (University of Manchester)

Enormous amounts of energy fall quite literally onto the earth surface in the form of electromagnetic radiation (light) originating from the Sun. Plants utilise this energy effectively if not efficiently in photosynthesis. In the last 50 years or so our ability to harness this energy, directly, as electricity has increased from a curiosity to a technology appearing tantalizingly close to being of huge impact.

In this lecture I will try and look at how we can think about the future of solar energy against a back drop that includes socio economic factors, availability of elements both geographically and in terms of remaining resources, and potential future technologies. The recent problem with the supply of rare earth elements from China and the high price of copper illustrate how such factors could affect the exploitation of important new technologies.

Paul O'Brien is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester.  He has lectured widely at venues as diverse as the Royal Society, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and for the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Each year he presents several School's lectures including a very popular master class on nanotechnology.  He has published more than 500 scientific papers and has edited many books including a successful series on Nanoscience and Technology for the R.S.C. He is currently in Durham as an IAS Fellow, hosted by Collingwood College.  During his Fellowship he is specifically working on a project concerning potential technologies for sustainable energy, especially solar energy.  For further information please visit: 


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