Rhodes Scholar sets solar cell challenge
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Helping to make solar cells cheaper and more accessible to the general public is the aim set by South Australia's latest Rhodes Scholar, University of Adelaide student Sam Stranks.
An Honours student in the School of Chemistry & Physics, Mr Stranks, 22, of Torrens Park, has been named the 2008 Rhodes Scholar for South Australia.
The scholarship will enable him to study for a D.Phil (PhD) in Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Oxford next year, where he will join research efforts to find organic semi-conductors that could form the basis of next-generation solar cells.
"Solar panels are currently made out of silicon, which is expensive and therefore not very affordable for the average householder. Organic semi-conductors have the potential to be much cheaper," Mr Stranks says.
"My studies at Oxford will give me an opportunity to continue my research in both chemistry and physics - working in a chemistry lab to make the semi-conductor materials, and using physics to analyse their potential as alternative solar cells."
A former Scotch College student, Mr Stranks is the 101st Rhodes Scholar in the University of Adelaide's history. At Adelaide he studied for a double degree in Science and Arts before moving onto his Honours year.
His Honours project has focused on a common problem faced by the wine industry, called "wine haze" - the cloudiness caused by a build up of protein in wine. Winemakers commonly add clay particles to bind to and remove the proteins, causing issues of quality and quantity, and at great cost to the industry.
"Although the solar cell work I'm moving into is quite a bit different to the wine issues I've been looking at, both projects have a common link through the use of chemistry and physics," Mr Stranks says.
He says he owes his love of chemistry and physics to his Science studies at the University, as well as to his late grandfather, former University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor (1977-1986) and Professor of Inorganic Chemistry Donald Stranks.
"Unfortunately I never got to know my grandfather because he died when I was very young, but I've always thought of him as a role model and hoped that I'd be able to follow his example," Mr Stranks says.
Nine Rhodes Scholars are chosen in Australia each year - one for each State, plus three for Australia at large.
The selection of the Rhodes Scholar for South Australia is made by a committee chaired by the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AO CSC RANR, and comprising former Rhodes Scholars and community leaders.
The Scholars are chosen based on their academic achievements, as well as community work, leadership and sporting activities.
Mr Stranks is a keen Australian Rules footballer and is currently vice captain for Scotch College Old Collegians. He has also helped to establish a Gaelic football team at Scotch College.