Dr Ivan Kassal
University of Sydney
Current methods for collecting the vast amounts of energy from the sun are expensive and inefficient. Plants, on the other hand, have had billions of years to perfect cheap and efficient light harvesting. Dr Kassal is a theorist working at the intersection of chemistry, biophysics, energy science, and materials science whose work has helped establish that Nature takes advantage of strange quantum effects, which are only apparent on the tiniest scales.
He is currently taking these lessons learned from Nature to design better solar cells that are made of organic molecules and the abundant elements carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Unlike most solar panels, they are lightweight and flexible, and could be made into curtains, tents, or even laptop bags.
As an undergraduate, Ivan I performed chemistry shows and has more recently been an informal mentor for the UQ Science Demo Troupe, helping them design memorable demonstrations based on physical chemistry. He is currently planning several lectures on the science of cooking. Deep, yet exciting and accessible, chemistry and physics lurk behind questions such as why does food brown
in the oven, why does kneading make bread chewy, and how do you boil the perfect egg.