Further growing the trend of energy research in Ireland and Europe as a whole, Micheál Scanlon of UL has received a European Research Council Starting Grant of €1.5 million to further his research into clean energy, specifically pushing the science involved in solar photovoltaic.
The electrochemist is to deepen his research into imitating photosynthesis in the leaves of plants to generate clean electricity. In doing so, he is the only recipient in Ireland in the area of physical sciences. With energy consumption expected to double globally over the next 30 years, it is deemed vital that technologies such as solar PV and the growing research in this area are supported to help Ireland, Europe and the wider world to achieve sustainability.
Within the next 15 years, the solar PV market in Europe alone is projected to be worth €10bn per annum.
The new approach from the UL researcher aims to achieve solar energy conversion using a liquid-to-liquid interface rather than the solid materials used in today’s solar PV panels, such as the Suntech panels we use here at Activ8 Solar Energies, which are Bloomberg Tier 1 panels.
“Liquid-liquid interfaces are found everywhere in nature, including in the membranes of cells in plant leaves, which are photosynthetic. There are light-harvesting molecules called chlorophyll in these membranes.
“The liquid-liquid interfaces I use have the fantastic ability to trap and bring molecules together, especially molecules that are similar to chlorophyll. By coating these interfaces in all sorts of light-harvesting molecules, I can create an artificial photosynthetic membrane capable of producing energy.”
The funding grant will go to assisting Dr. Scanlon’s goal to study the interaction of light with the artificial photosynthetic membranes he is creating.
It is important that we continually push the boundaries of research in the area of clean energy here in Ireland. In the meantime, it’s just as important that we use the technologies available to us now to help protect the environment. What’s more, the ability to save money on your electricity bills puts Irish homeowners in the unique position of being able to save money in the long-term while also helping protect the environment!