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Year of the Periodic Table - Ahmad Alsaleh

Ahmad Alsaleh

  • Year: 3rd year PhD
  • Supervisor: Professor Anita Jones

Tell us about your PhD project

I study the photophysics of highly luminescent Europium complexes to enhance the efficiency of solar cells. My project involves the synthesis and photophysical characterisation of Europium complexes. Solar cells suffer from fundamental spectral losses due to their insensitivity to the full solar spectrum. There is spectral mismatch between the energy of a photon in the UV region, and the bandgap of a traditional solar cell. One way to overcome this problem is by converting the high-energy photons into lower energy photons. By encapsulating the luminescent Europium complexes into polymeric matrices and place them on the top of a solar cell, we will be to achieve this conversion and hence increase the efficiency.

A clear polymer matrix and one with Europium captured within

Which element is key to your research area and why?

Most of the lanthanide elements are relevant to my project but I have to choose Europium as the key element. The Europium emission occurs where the response of the photovoltaic device is high.

Describe your average day of PhD work here in the School of Chemistry

Mostly in the lab. The lab work consists of, synthesis of complexes or preparing polymeric films, and conduct photophysical studies and measurements.      

What’s your favourite chemical element?

I will go with Gallium.

Since this is the international year of the periodic table, I thought it would be appropriate to choose Gallium as my favourite element. The original periodic table drawn by Mendeleev in 1869 had gaps “where no known element fit”1. Mendeleev was visionary enough not only to predict undiscovered elements but he went as far as predicating the properties of undiscovered elements.1

Gallium was the first element to fill the gaps in the original periodic table. It is a testament to Mendeleev’s imagination.  

What's your favourite chemical reaction?

Any bioluminescence reaction. The process in which living organisms, such as Jellyfish, convert chemical energy to light. Bioluminescence reaction can occur in the deep sea in the absence of sunlight. When luciferin (molecule) reacts with oxygen in the presence of luciferase (enzyme), it releases energy in the form light. It is such an exciting phenomenon to see.

Bioluminescent jellyfish

Source: https://reportshealthcare.com/21011/medical-uses-of-bioluminescence/ [last accessed 31/5/2019]

  1. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/elements/features/2010/blogging_the_periodic_table/gallium_it_proved_that_dmitri_mendeleev_father_of_the_periodic_table_wasnta_crackpot.html?via=gdpr-consent [last accessed 31/5/2019]