Nanotechnology for Energy Efficiency

On Energy Efficiency Day (5 October 2022) advocacy groups around the world spread their simple message: “Save Money. Cut Pollution. Create Jobs.”

This annual awareness event has been supported by hundreds of prominent organizations, companies, and government agencies. The goal is to share tips, tools and stories that promote the multiple benefits of energy efficiency, from lower costs to healthier homes.

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest way to meet our energy needs, cut consumer bills and reduce pollution.

In Kenya, Dr Tabitha Amollo, a lecturer in and chairperson of the department of physics, Faculty of Science at the Egerton University, is doing her bit for energy efficiency. She specialises in nanotechnology, nanomaterials, organic photovoltaics, and thermoelectricity.

“My research is focused on the development of cutting-edge solar energy conversion nanomaterials for the fabrication of a portable solar-driven refrigeration system. These energy conversion devices will ensure a reliable supply of efficient, clean energy that would mitigate the climate change issues facing the world today.”

Her vision is to have Africa powered by renewable energy sources.

Non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels are non-sustainable and associated with the emission of greenhouse gasses – a dominant cause of global warming. It is thus of paramount importance to develop technologies that exploit renewable energy and ensure environmental safety. Solar energy is abundantly available in Africa.

“Organic solar cells (OSCs), including polymer solar cells and dye-sensitized solar cells, offer a cost-effective route to solar energy conversion. They also have advantages in terms of flexibility, lightweight, low-cost production, and large-area applications”, she explains.

Central to the performance of OSCs is the development of functional materials and in this regard, various nanomaterials are being developed, including graphene, the “wonder material of the century”.

It has characterized by high carrier mobility, optical transparency, surface area, material flexibility and mechanical strength and is thus suited for application in OSCs.

Her project aims to develop nanomaterials for effective conversion of solar energy to electricity in OSCs, in turn, to be used in the design and fabrication of portable refrigeration units which can be used in remote areas of Africa to improve the livelihoods of the populace, at local health facilities for the preservation of medicines and vaccines, and in agriculture to refrigerate perishable produce to mitigate post-harvest losses and – since it will be portable – during the transport of agricultural products.

"The use of organic photovoltaic technology will impact socioeconomics and roll over into technological advancements on the continent. As a clean, renewable source of energy it will positively impact the problem of climate change in the long run,” asserts Dr Amollo."

Heidi Sonnekus | FAR-LeaF Program


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.