UNSW - Science

Dr Scott Watkins

BSc Hons. (Chemistry)

PhD

I always enjoyed science, right from a very early age and chemistry and astronomy were my favourite areas.

I studied a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and then my PhD all in the School of Chemistry at UNSW. My PhD thesis was entitled, “The chemistry of (N) n P-donor ligands: towards co-operative multimetallic reactivity”.

I have very fond memories of my time at the School of Chemistry. One of my favourite memories would have to be finally winning, after many attempts, the inter-department touch football competition as captain of the Students of Chemistry Society team.

I worked as a Postdoctoral fellow then as a Research Scientist at a spin-out company in Oxford on Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs). Four years later, when I returned to Australia, we began to develop a research activity here on Organic Photovoltaics (OPVs). The chemistry and device science of OLEDs is very similar to OPVs so I gradually moved into it as the group expanded over the years.

I am currently working on developing technologies to enable the production of low-cost, printable, organic solar cells.  The current silicon based solar cells are expensive and not as environmentally friendly. Silicon cells are expensive because the manufacturing process involves high temperature wafer formation and the material is required to be very pure. Currently in Australia, after subsidies, a 3kW system of 16 panels costs about $10,000.

I definitely think mass production of the low cost, printable organic solar cells is possible in Australia. We are trying to work with the printing industry here to provide them with alternative products – solar cells that they can manufacture. A large-scale, high-resolution display industry in Australia is probably unlikely, but solar cells are simple devices (in comparison).

We see the roadmap for the technology as being small, portable devices and packaging as the first step; off-grid, building integrated systems such as windows as the second step and then grid-connected rooftop systems.