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Romain Schott, Activist Researcher

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Romain Schott, Activist Researcher

Romain Schott, researcher at the laboratory for the use of intense lasers (LULI-joint research unit 7605 - UPMC/Ecole Polytechnique/CNRS), professor of physics at UPMC and developer of the 2006 'Soleil en Seine' project, talks about his discipline, its applications and its challenges at a time when the shortage of fossil fuels is pushing us to find alternatives.

Romain Schott is among those researchers for whom research is an act of militancy.  Professor of physics at UPMC, he was champion of the Helioparc project presented at the Soleil en Seine for the World Year of Physics in 2006.  For him, it is clear that researchers must contribute toward raising the awareness of the general public, particularly its younger members, with regard to their environmental footprint: "We want to raise awareness on the significance of emerging renewable energies and, more particularly, solar energy."

What might attract, from an early age, future physics students, of whom there is currently a desperate shortage?  Why is that the case?  Because of the lack of visibility regarding its applications.

Solar physics: with his research so closely connected with current concerns, particularly with regard to the various possibilities of solar energy, Romain Schott gives it an entirely different image.  Have you ever thought of being able to cook your meals using the sun's heat?  Converting sea water into fresh water using solar distillation?  Converting hot air into cold air by evaporation to create your own air conditioning?  Romain Schott has thought about it by creating clever tools capable of anything, or nearly.

Solar cooking: greenhouse effect solar cookers and ovens enable meals to be cooked at up to 120°C in really hot weather and up to 60° C in warm weather; this is the same as solar parabolic cookers which offer the equivalent of gas cooking.  "Solar cooking opens up a whole array of discussions on the humanitarian aspect.  In fact, it would be worth handing out this equipment in developing countries where most cooking is done on wood fires, which is the prime cause of Sub-Saharan deforestation.  These environmental issues could find a solution in solar cooking, the cost of which, moreover, is minimal."

Photovoltaic solar energy:
photovoltaic panels convert photons from the sun into electricity.  "To illustrate this, simply install large 160 watt, two-metre long photovoltaic panels, align them one behind the other, in series, in parallel…"
Solar fuel cell: the solar fuel cell has been a source of fascination since used by the first prototype cars.  This technology, the concept of which is hydrogen economy, could, eventually, drastically change energy policies.  "To simulate the process, we can stage a small experiment, which involves setting up an electrolyser that will take in water and separate it into hydrogen, on the one hand and oxygen on the other; these two elements are recombined in a fuel cell to generate power.  The post-petroleum age is a concern and hydrogen could be the solution..."

Solar machines: We developed a solar car of such high-performance that it won all the races in the field.  Beautiful and sleek with its glider nose, it is propelled purely by solar energy generated by its covering of photovoltaic panels which convert solar energy into electricity.  This electricity is stored in the batteries which generate the power needed to drive the car.
The solar sail: futuristic application: Who hasn't dreamed of travelling across our galaxy, to Mars or the Moon?  Physics research in solar energy is still evolving.  In the more distant future, solar sails will enable us to make interplanetary journeys by capturing a maximum of solar photons for propulsion.  An ideal step for science-fiction lovers...

There is no doubt that with Romain Schott, physics is fun!

 



20/05/09