Piers Barnes

Favourite Thing: I like to design new ways to measure or describe things.



Hills Road Sixth Form College (1991-1993), University of Bristol (1994-1998), British Antarctic Survey (1998-2003)


Physics, Chemistry and Maths A-level, AS Biology, MSci Physics, PhD Ice Physics

Work History:

British Antarctic Survey (Cambridge/Antarctica), University of Florence (Italy), CSIRO (an Australian research lab in Sydney), Imperial College London.

Current Job:

EPSRC Research Fellow


Imperial College London

About Me

I’m a scientist! I work on new materials for converting solar energy.

Since I was a child, I’ve always been really interested by science and I love how the scientific method can be used to describe almost everything around us. Although the science doesn’t often ‘turn off’ I also really like to cycle, surf, telemark ski, and play the banjo. I live with my wife in Northwest London, being in London sadly means that surfing and skiing don’t happen very often.

Before I started working on solar energy materials I worked as a glaciologist for the British Antarctic Survey. I went to Antarctica twice to drill and measure ice cores, these contain a record of what the climate was like in the past.

My Work

I work in the Physics Department at Imperial College London where I run a small research group.

I work on creating new materials that can be used to convert energy from one form to another. For example we are currently working on developing printable inks that can be used to make solar panels to convert sunlight to electricity. My team is particularly interested in measuring and understanding how electrical charges behave in these materials. This helps us to improve the design and stability of the devices made from the materials. As well as making measurements we often write computer simulations to understand the observations we are making.

One of the techniques we are very interested in at the moment involves flashing our materials with very short pulses of light and measuring the resulting change in the electrical properties like the voltage or current produced by the material. We then see how long the voltage or current takes to return to equilibrium and this tells us about what processes are working efficiently in the materials.

My Typical Day

Discussing and performing experiments with my students, reading and writing scientific articles and also some teaching.

I spend quite a lot of time thinking about experiments and discussing new observations with my research students and colleagues.

Occasionally I’ll get into the lab to make a new sample or measurement.

Now days I spend a lot of time communicating the results of our experiments. This is often by writing articles which other scientists can read, or by presenting the results at meetings and conferences where I can also hear what other people are doing to help give me ideas.

I also spend time writing proposal to do new research, and do a bit of teaching.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic but ponderous

Who is your favourite singer or band?

At the moment I’m into Dr Alimantado, and Crooked Still

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

The Trans-Antarctic Space Hopper Expedition

What did you want to be after you left school?

An Antarctic explorer

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, mostly for not doing my homework…

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics and also Art

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

My grandmother would always ask if I had watched the Christmas Lectures as a child, it’s her enthusiasm about the lectures I remember most.

Tell us a joke.

A sodium and a chlorine atom were walking down the street and the sodium said “I think I’ve lost an electron”, “Are you sure?” the chlorine asked, “Yes, I’m positive” the sodium replied…

Other stuff

Work photos: