Nanoco Group PLC

Finding Nanoco’s Place in the Sun: Stephen Whitelegg

Published on 23/3/2016

We at Nanoco are all about the science of innovation, more specifically, the chemistry of innovation. From display to lighting and beyond, our unique chemistry has led to a wide and growing array of applications for our CFQD® quantum dots. But technological advancement rarely happens with just one science alone—which is where physics comes into play at Nanoco.

Put in its simplest terms, the difference between physics and chemistry is one of theory vs. application. For Nanoco’s head of solar, physicist Stephen Whitelegg, it’s a distinction that keeps Nanoco moving forward as his team puts the theoretical into action.

Stephen joined Nanoco in 2008, bringing with him a unique perspective—that of a physicist surrounded primarily by chemists. Earlier in his career, Stephen had been working with organic based semiconductors, which have limitations regarding their stability. Stephen recalls, “Having Nanoco’s solution-processed inorganic semiconductors gave us quite an advantage with applications, and it was exciting to work with these materials.”

How does this translate to solar innovation?  Currently, the widely-used vacuum technology used to produce solar cells is dominated by silicon as its primary material, making the product expensive and less efficient.

Nanoco’s alternative, copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin film solar cell technology utilizes photovoltaic based nanocrystals developed in a way that makes them capable of forming printable inks in common organic solvents. This allows for a scalable process that can achieve a higher power conversion efficiency (PCE). Nanoco’s new technology has the potential to not only lower the cost of solar but also provide the foundation for not only a more aesthetically uniform solar panel than silicon but one that performs better than silicon in the field.

The promise of Nanoco’s work is extremely exciting, and the significance of the work guides everything Stephen and his team create. Though he claims no guiding principle for his work, Stephen takes great pride in the moral (and environmental) dimension of advancing solar technology. Nanoco is excited to continue this innovative work of advancing solar as a reliable and cost-effective energy solution as our planet becomes less reliant on fossil fuel-based energy.