2017 James Joule Medal and Prize

Professor Henry Snaith of the University of Oxford for his pioneering discovery and development of highly efficient thin-film organic-inorganic metal-halide perovskite solar cells.

Professor Henry Snaith is a leader in the field of photovoltaic and optoelectronic devices based on novel semiconductors. His research is having a transformative effect in the field of solar energy generation.

Snaith pioneered the use of crystalline organic-inorganic metal-halide perovskites as optical absorbers in solar cells. He made the revolutionary discovery that they function extremely efficiently as the solid-absorber layer in thin-film solar cells.

Over the past five years he has led the research community in advancing fundamental understanding of these materials and in making them practically useful by improving device efficiency and stability. Perovskite solar cells now deliver over 22% power conversion efficiency in single junction solar cells – comparable to commercial silicon cells, which took 50 years of research and development to reach such efficiencies. He also discovered how to tune the band gap of the perovskite semiconductors to deliver highly efficient solar cells with a range of absorption bands: this enables perovskites to be employed in multi-junction, solar cells which now promise to significantly outperform crystalline silicon solar cells.

Snaith’s initial discovery of efficient thin-film perovskite solar cells in 2012 has created a new field of research. The number of scientific articles published on this subject grew from four in 2012 to more than 2,000 in 2016. Snaith himself has published more than 200 articles on solar cells, and in 2016  alone his publications were cited more than 10,000 times, testifying to his impact upon the scientific community.

Snaith is also driving the commercialisation of perovskite solar cells. In 2010 he founded Oxford PV Ltd, which raised more than £30 m of equity investment and has a thin-film pilot facility in Brandenburg, Germany. Oxford PV has formed a partnership with a mainstream silicon solar cell manufacturer in order to deliver perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar modules within the next few years.

In 2013 Snaith was named as one of “10 people who mattered” by the journal Nature and as “the world’s second most influential scientific mind” in 2016 by Thomson Reuters. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 2015.