Walking on Sunshine

The Sun – you might think we’d know quite a lot about this thing already, given how important it is for the sustaining of life on Earth, and well… given just how noticeable it is in the sky. All throughout history, the Sun has represented a cornerstone in mythology, worshipped (and rightly so) by many civilisations. Over the past two weeks we’ve started to scrape away at the surface of what there is to understand about the Sun, but the simple truth is that, despite our everlasting efforts, there’s so much more yet to uncover about this mystical being.

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Lights of the Skies

Last week we walked through the gallery of the universe to observe the majestic broad strokes found strewn across the canvas of interstellar space. This week we’re going to wander slightly closer to home, and take a look at the beautiful natural lights put on for us by our very own skies. However, they do get a little bit of help from a certain life-giving star, not to mention a lot of physics…

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Trick or Treat

You know, what with the recent passing of Halloween, I thought I’d try my hand at a little horror story-telling of my own. It is a chilling tale about a demon, passed down through the ages in hushed tone and bated breath. Few dare to become too invested, and even the most intrepid minds find their dreams being haunted by this eerie creature. Those that are feint of heart, be warned…

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The Perovskite Age

We begin our journey at the advent of the Stone Age. Human-like species, or hominids, aren’t able to run as fast as their prey, nor do they stand an earthly chance of surviving brawls with other predators. They can, however, yield a much more powerful weapon – their intelligence. They learn to utilise stone tools in order to gain a technological advantage, and they learn to yield stone weapons in order to exercise their superiority over other species. Here commences the birth of civilisation.

Fast-forward three and a half million years and we arrive at the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age is considered to have begun during the fourth millennium BC with the onset of the production of bronze – an alloy consisting of a copper majority with a supplement of tin. By combining the attributes of two metals, the homo sapiens concocts a metal with strength and durability unmatched by any other material at the time. Stone certainly cannot contend.

Fast-forward another mere three millennia and we arrive at the Iron Age. The Iron Age is considered to have begun during the early first millennium BC and to have ended by the Middle Ages. Iron, although simpler in structure than bronze, is a more difficult metal to extract from its ore. Nonetheless, the reward is immense. The discovery of steel, one of the strongest common materials on the planet, provides human civilisation with another rung in technological advancement.

This is the three-age system. Some say that we currently live in a fourth age – the Silicon Age. Nowadays we can scarcely step in any direction without being in close proximity to a silicon transistor – an essential component of every electronic circuit and which exists in masses of a few billions at a time in a smartphone.

Silicon extends its range of applications to photovoltaic technology. Silicon is by far the most prevalent material in solar cells, the building blocks of solar panels. However, a newer material, perovskite, has captivated the interest of many researchers in the field of semiconductor electronics. Its promisingly high efficiency could put an end to the days of silicon solar cells. For solar cells, could this be the start of the Perovskite Age?

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