Frontiers Talk links

Here are some links and embedded graphs from the Frontiers in Physics talk Materials for a Sustainable Future on 4th May 2023.


Our World In Data : you can search for each graph title (& browse the site – it’s endless): see “Search for a topic or chart…”

What is Sustainability?

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable energy

Sir David J. C. MacKay’s FREE BOOK “Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air”

Chief Joseph Dam

Whitelee Windfarm

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility

European Chemical Society Periodic Table

University of Nottingham ECMN Group

UoN Energy Institute

UoN Propulsion Futures Beacon

UoN Sustainability

Solar energy

Matthias Loster’s page on solar energy and land area

NREL Best Research-Cell Efficiency Chart

Rao et al. Nature Reviews Materials (Harnessing singlet exciton fission to break the Shockley–Queisser limit)

My (Mike Weir & colleagues’) research publications

Harvesting Light / Quantum Solar YouTube video (& projected on a building)

Harvesting Light project web page (Artist Paul Evans)


Estimating the Global Waste Heat Potential (research paper)

Climate and Clean Air Coalition page on Hydrofluorocarbons

Journal of Applied Physics research paper on candidate thermoelectric materials


Great IoP physics careers page (lots on sustainability)

Climate anxiety news article (

Climate anxiety advice blog post (Mental Health UK)

Dr. Antony John Weir 1971-2023

Although this site is primarily here to document the research work of me and my group, I am writing some sad personal news today which has greatly affected my recent work and serves as a very important reflection point on my career to date.

My brother Dr. Antony John Weir (Tony) died on 16th January 2023 at the age of 51. He suffered from a short illness from a rare and aggressive form of cancer, which was heavily complicated by his underlying chronic ill health from the autoimmune disease Crohn’s. A short tribute is here:

Dr. Antony John Weir (middle)

Born in Coventry in 1971 he was the eldest of three brothers in our family and had a profound impact on the cultural education of his younger siblings, my other elder brother and me. Being more than ten years our senior he was able to bring a different perspective to life that served to enrich and inspire us with new and exciting material and gave the possibility of fresh directions two young lives which were, in the worst case scenario at least, at risk of being marooned in a dormitory suburb. He took a great interest in our academic, cultural, and recreational pursuits and served regularly as inspiration, photographer, and audience.

Tony was a Senior Technician at Coventry University in the School of Media and Performing Arts. Tributes from his friends and colleagues document an extremely active professional life facilitating and participating in projects relating to the School’s degrees. He himself (like our mum) had earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in the same School and his professional career at the University spanned almost 20 years.

Tony was a prolific writer and photographer and was rarely away from creative pursuits. His Flickr account under the pseudonym generalzorn documents the thousands of photographs he published over his life and will be kept open by our family. He had special interests in urban landscapes especially in Coventry and London, and live music.

He was creative and intellectual and despite holding down the aforementioned full time job he worked part time for ten years to obtain a PhD in drama at the University of Exeter entitled “Theatre as public discourse: a dialogic project” which he passed in 2016 with minor corrections. This is fantastic achievement, and however tempting it would be to call it a labour of love, his relationship with the PhD and with academia was much more love-hate, with an emphasis on the latter. He was a reluctant “Doctor”, particularly due to his overwhelming humility and a real reluctance to blow his own trumpet (and a barely concealed dislike of most other people who did).

Tony was there at all stages of the development of my career and took a great interest in the subject of my studies. I clearly remember his reaction when I first told him I’d chosen to go in to fields more closely related to microscopes that telescopes: “ah, I thought you were more of a big picture man!”. He was also a dedicated uncle to our two sons who gave much of his time to their entertainment and education.

Science does not happen in isolation but is done by human beings with hearts and minds and families. Thank you for reading this, and thank you to my late brother Tony who was so generous in his encouragement of my scientific pursuits however far they may take me. My regret is that I can no longer share with him any success however small or large that might come my way.

Summer Project thanks

This summer Dr. James Sharp and I have had the great privilege to be joined by Prashant Jivan, Ailish Gray, and Max Butterworth, who are all undertaking undergraduate summer projects. They are at various stages of their degree studies and each on a different course within the Physics/Natural Sciences family.

L-R: Prashant, Ailish, and Max

Due to a couple of projects being almost at an end, and the timings of holidays, today was the last chance for us all to get together and celebrate the students’ excellent achievements. Each has conducted full-time research in an academic environment, as well as participating in formal weekly group meetings to present their results and findings.

This summer has been made a lot brighter by the students’ presence here with us in our research groups. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing their journeys of scientific discovery. I hope this taste of research life is helpful in guiding Prashant, Ailish, and Max on the paths they choose to take through the remainder of their studies and beyond. Thanks and good luck!

Class of 2021 – congratulations Caitlin and Sunny

This summer, alongside graduations for the present cohort, the University of Nottingham has been holding ceremonies for those students whose in-person graduation had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week I had the great pleasure of seeing Caitlin Dickson and Sunny Luhar after their graduation ceremony, where they both received M. Sci. degrees in Physics with First Class Honours.

Caitlin and Sunny celebrate their M.Sci. graduation

Caitlin and Sunny completed an excellent 4th year undergraduate research project as the first (ever) members of our research group, investigating thermoelectricity in small-molecule organic semiconductor thin films and the effects of doping.

Their work was of excellent quality and has provided the foundation for further academic study in our group and beyond. Caitlin and Sunny showed excellent focus in their work as well as patience and personal sacrifice in the face of ever-changing Covid restrictions. It probably goes without saying that at times we all would have wished for things to be different; however, I have no doubt that their positive attitude and resilience will take them far in their professional careers – which have both already begun in earnest.

Caitlin and Sunny, everyone in the group and indeed in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham would like to wish you well for the future. As a Nottingham graduate myself I know from personal experience that each of your degrees will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Sapientia urbs conditur / A city is built on wisdom!

EU PhD in sustainability/LCA of new thermoelectrics hosted in Dublin

Fully funded Ph.D. Studentship (4 years): HeatToPower: Life cycle assessment of new generation of sustainable thermoelectric materials and devices 

BiOrbic Bioeconomy, SFI Research Centre is Ireland’s national research centre, with over 100 researchers focused on the development of sustainable circular bioeconomy In conjunction with University of Nottingham BiOrbic runs the EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemistry: Atoms-2-Products. 

This 4-year PhD studentship will focus on quantifying the environmental impacts of new generation of sustainable thermoelectric materials and device as part of the thematic area “HeatToPower.” Thermoelectric materials are capable of converting wasted heat into useful electrical energy and potentially offer new, sustainable energy solutions. However it is necessary to better understand the direct and indirect impacts of implementing these technologies in practice before sustainability claims can be made. 

The appointed candidate will work as part of a multidisciplinary team with highly motivated organic, inorganic and physical chemists, physicists and engineers at its core. The research will take on the challenge of using life cycle assessment to determine the environmental impacts of the energy system disrupting technologies being developed by the team. 

The CDT will provide research training in the theoretical skills needed to work with the core chemistry, physics and engineering teams to understand how new materials are exploited. Most importantly for this particular PhD studentship, advanced training in life cycle assessment will be provided. The post will suit someone with a strong interest in sustainability and the search for scientific and technical solutions to global energy issues. 

The PhD will be hosted at University College Dublin, and will involve a student-focused, individually tailored programme of technical training courses and workshops as part of the CDT, designed to provide the skills and confidence required for a successful PhD project. Some of this training will be provided at University of Nottingham, UK. With the support of the Principal Supervisor, academic mentors and the CDT, the candidate will have a unique opportunity to design and develop their own research project in this area based on the chemistry, physics and engineering contributing to the thematic area. The candidate will have to spend some time in University of Nottingham, UK during the life cycle inventory phases of the research for data collection and to fully understand the systems being evaluated. 

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates to join both the CDT Atoms-to-Products: HeatToPower team and the BiOrbic Bioeconomy Sustainability Platform research team. Candidates who wish to be considered should: 

  • Hold a BSc, BE, or equivalent 2.1 degree or MSc, ME or equivalent degree. 
  • Provide evidence of (i) reasonable numeracy skills; (ii) interest in sustainability, environmental impact and life cycle assessment; (iii) willingness to work as part of a collaborative team 
  • Meet the general admission requirements for the PhD degree at University College Dublin 
  • If necessary, provide evidence of meeting minimum English language requirements (outlined here

The candidate will register with UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, working under the supervision of Prof. Nicholas Holden ( and an appropriate research studies panel. The funding is €24,000 per year for 4 years. This includes a fee contribution of €5,500 p.a. and a tax-free stipend of €18,500 p.a. Additional fee support for non-EU students can be negotiated with the Head of School, but is not guaranteed. General information can be found at: 

To apply submit electronic copies of (i) your Curriculum Vitae; (ii) the names and contact details of two academic referees; (iii) a cover letter outlining your motivation and what you imagine your PhD project might entail, to: Professor Nicholas M. Holden at 

The studentship will remain open until filled. Applications will be reviewed monthly, starting the first week of June 2022. 

CDT PhD studentship in the physics of sustainable energy materials

Would you like to do a PhD in Physics that also makes a difference to help us live and use energy more sustainably?

If the answer is yes, there is a fully funded 48 month PhD studentship available in the University of Nottingham CDT in Sustainable Chemistry. Physicists don’t fear – the PhD you get would be in physics and based within the School of Physics and Astronomy.

CDT students write their own research proposals towards the end of an initial group training period, and there is much flexibility. However, an example project that could work very well would be the study of thermoelectric effects* in thin films of 2D van der Waals materials, conducting polymers, and their hybrids. Therefore if you are interested in finding applications for 2D semiconducting materials and/or organic electronics, this could be the project for you. I’d also be happy to discuss other projects with applicants.

(*i.e. thermal and electrical conductivity, and the Seebeck effect i.e. voltages appearing when temperature gradients are applied across materials)

These positions are interdisciplinary however and you would join theme of 4 within a cohort of 12 students all working on various projects within the CDT. Therefore, an interest in learning more about chemistry would certainly help but you don’t have to be chemist yourself!

Our theme is HeatToPower – A New Generation of Sustainable Thermoelectric Materials and Devices, and concerns new materials that can generate clean energy and greenhouse-gas-free cooling: both set to be very important issues for humanity during the rest of this century. See more here!

Our CDT students get training in the first 6-12 months while undergoing a group project – in your case that will be on the fascinating science of thermoelectricity, and broader issues of sustainability.

To be eligible you will need to have completed, or be about to complete, a four-year undergraduate masters degree or a BSc plus (for example) and MSc in a related subject. That could be physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering etc.

Unfortunately our funders requirements meant that only those with Home fees status can apply.

For more information please contact Mike –

To apply please visit

Good luck!

PhDs in Sustainable Chemistry

Calling all chemists! Would you like to do a PhD that will build your key skills in sustainability and tackle a major challenge related to energy and climate?

We are currently advertising up to four fully funded PhDs in the EPSRC and SFI CDT for Sustainable Chemistry. This is an interdisciplinary doctoral training centre that will take on students from chemistry, materials science, engineering and physics.

For a short video on the theme and more information please visit

HeatToPower: New generation sustainable thermoelectric materials and devices

The theme is entitled HeatToPower: A new generation of sustainable thermoelectric materials and devices. Thermoelectrics are materials that fulfil two crucial purposes – one, to convert waste heat into clean electrical energy, and two, to provide cooling and refrigeration with no moving parts. Critically, thermoelectric materials can provide cooling without the refrigerant gases typically used by air-cons and fridges. These gases are on the order of 1000 times more warming as CO2, molecule-for-molecule. Removing these chemicals from our heat management needs is a critical sustainability challenge.

However, current thermoelectric technologies rely on ageing technologies that use elements that are increasingly short supply and whose limited availabilty holds back their mass adoption.

We therefore seek sustainably-minded organic or inorganic synthetic chemists who are excited to design and synthesise the next generation of sustainable thermoelectric materials and devices. We particularly value your expertise if you enjoy making new materials.

This theme is truly interdisciplinary and is run by a team of academics at the University of Nottingham across the faculties of Science and Engineering.

Examples of potential projects in the HeatToPower theme include:

  • Synthesis of charge transfer based organic conductors (e.g. acene-derived small molecules) and their use
  • Synthesis of polymeric conductors, especially sustainable routes to EDOT/PEDOT and their analogues
  • Development and synthesis of new, sustainable n-type conductors
  • Synthesis and structural optimisation of hybrid organic/inorganic nanocomposites, e.g. colloidal nanocrystal quantum dots

The structure of the PhDs is unique – the four successfully appointed students will undergo six months of theme-specific training in thermoelectrics and sustainability jointly delivered between the University of Nottingham and University College Dublin. This includes a group project where they will work as a team to solve a real research problem in thermoelectrics. They will then get a chance to write their own research proposal to channel their knowledge and ideas thus far it into a plan for the remaining part of their 48-month studentship.

Students in this theme will gain experience and training in a range of topics:

  • Motivations, challenges, and solutions in sustainable energy
  • Life cycle assessment of emerging technologies 
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to research at the Chemistry/Physics/Engineering interface
  • The theory and practice of thermoelectric devices and systems
  • Perspectives on industrial research and development

Furthermore, there are two other great themes running in the CDT this year meaning that you will be part of a vibrant cohort of twelve PhD students.

The scholarships are currently open and taking applications. For informal enquiries particularly relating to structure and scientific content of the CDT theme please contact

For questions on the mechanics of applying for the PhDs please contact

To apply please visit