New materials for a sustainable energy future

This consortium of researchers based in Ghana, Botswana, Namibia and UK is working on harnessing the power of predictive computer modelling to design and develop new materials for the production of sustainable (solar) fuels.

Lay summary

Dwindling fossil fuel reserves and the threat of climate change from rising carbon dioxide levels have put renewable energy firmly on the global agenda. 

This collaborative research programme aims to train a group of African scientists in the use of state-of-the-art computer modelling and advanced experimental techniques to design, develop and optimise new materials to improve the efficiency of solar energy cells and to allow the utilisation of biomass by converting it into fuel and chemicals.

Proposed benefits to researchers and institutions

  • The African partners will become centres of excellence in their expert areas in sub-Saharan Africa, providing access to skilled personnel and the equipment to train researchers in their own and Africa-wide institutions
  • Graduates from the programmme will have high-level skills and research expertise in areas relevant to African economies, making them attractive to employers and potentially leading to industrial sponsorship of the laboratories and students

Proposed benefits of research to society

  • New materials that improve the performance of low-cost solar cells and efficiently catalyse biomass conversion to fuel and chemicals will have a positive impact on the commercial sector, the public sector, and the general public
  • Organic solar cell materials with higher conversion efficiencies and greater stability can be applied to a range of existing solar energy applications
  • New and improved experimental computational techniques developed to carry out the research will enhance the knowledge base of chemical and energy industries
  • A robust and sustainable route to low-carbon fuels and chemicals to ensure stable energy prices without further risks associated with global warming and environmental damage