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Solar Search – a quest for new materials to power a more sustainable future

Our Fellows are trailblazers and pioneers, harnessing the potential of interdisciplinary science to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. We believe when interdisciplinary science can flourish without limit, scientists make bigger discoveries more quickly to benefit the world and drive innovation that improves quality of life for everyone.

Our latest series of ‘We Are Schmidt Science Fellows’ films follows three Fellows, exploring their science, motivations, and how they aim to make a difference in the world. At the center of each is their interdisciplinary science and their journey to cross disciplinary boundaries.

Dr. Suhas Mahesh is a 2021 Fellow at the University of Toronto who has pivoted his science to focus on accelerated materials discovery for clean-energy technologies. Suhas hopes to find ways to develop next-generation materials for solving grand challenges like energy storage, clean electricity, and decarbonization.

Suhas wants to explore what we can do to accelerate the discovery of materials for clean energy. Here he explains more about his research goals:

Growing up in India, I had front-row seats to the challenges that growth and urbanization bring, such as high levels of air pollution and smog and frequent grid failures as infrastructure struggled to keep up with demand. During my PhD, I focused on building next-generation photovoltaics. I realized that clean energy is not enough, we also need it in time to meet our emissions targets. And so, I wanted to explore what we can do to accelerate the discovery of materials for clean energy.
As a Schmidt Science Fellow, I use machine learning as a sort of glue between theory and experiment, quickly sifting through billions of candidates to identify the few winning materials for photovoltaics. But the techniques are general, and I plan to eventually apply these skills to various grand challenges, including carbon capture, efficient lighting, and next-generation transistors.
“The interface is the device” is a mantra to materials physicists like me, alluding to the all-important junctures between two materials, where lies the power to make or break technologies. It’s the same with science – the messy, uncharted interface where materials science and machine learning grow into one another is where the answers to developing next-generation clean energy technologies may lie.

See the other films in this series of ‘We Are Schmidt Science Fellows’ here and here.

Watch our first season of ‘We Are Schmidt Science Fellows’, including films on tackling illegal wildlife trafficking, developing new medical diagnostics, and combining medical imaging and astronomy here.