Dr. Selina Ama Saah, a Chemistry Lecturer Engaged in Groundbreaking Research

Dr. Selina Ama Saah, a Chemistry Lecturer Engaged in Groundbreaking Research
4 min read

Dr. Selina Ama Saah (Source: MyJoyOnline)

Dr. Selina Ama Saah is a lecturer at the Chemistry Department at the University of Energy and Natural Resources. Her research in substituting silicon in solar cells with lead chalcogenide semiconductors to reduce their cost and size, has the potential to change how solar energy can be accessed and harnessed in Africa.

I caught up with her for an interview concerning her views on STEM and her research in particular:

  • What is your general opinion on STEM education in Ghana?

“In Ghana, the sciences have been left for the guys with the idea that it is difficult and a woman cannot pursue it. So you find most women in the arts, with very few in the sciences. We need to encourage them. We also need to tell them it is doable. Because when you get to the lab, you realise that the females are more careful.”

She adds that women actually practice science at home whether they know it or not:

“Cooking…putting salt into food. Salt is sodium chloride. It is all science. But because we don’t know, we think it is difficult. More vigorous advocacy would go a long way.”

  • How do you suggest we get more females involved in STEM?

“With a little funding, we can start boot camps with the aim to encourage women to pursue the sciences.”

Dr. Selina Saah spoke of how accomplished women in academia could serve as mentors to the young and growing ones in their departments, by first identifying their interests and persistently encouraging them. She explained the need to feed them with information on numerous donor agencies supporting women to further their studies in higher education.

“Most women don’t continue because of financial difficulties. They say to themselves, “if there is no money, why don’t I go and marry?” But once they get to know there are agencies out there that are ready to support them, I am sure they will consider these options.”

She recounted her own experience:

“I felt like I was dreaming during my first time in Chemistry class, in the university. In secondary school, we had more emphasis on inorganic chemistry and very little study on organic chemistry. So I called my dad, who was my best friend. We talked about everything, and I mentioned my difficulty to him. The following week, he bought me books on organic chemistry.”

  • What is your research on solar cells about?

“Silicon is expensive because of its high demand worldwide. The fact alone that it has to be imported in Ghana means the solar panels in which they are used in are high priced. Also, the solar panels’ bulky nature requires experts for installations.”

The main aim of Dr. Saah’s research was to find alternative materials to silicon.  She discovered that lead chalcogenide semi conductors serve as viable alternative materials as lead chalcogenide is readily available in the earth’s crust and less expensive. She is 60% through with this research, and has succeeded in determining two major components to these semiconductors; the absorber and the conjugated polymer (which are commercially available). She is yet to complete a solar cell by combining the lead substitute and the conjugated polymer.

She also intends to place the solar cells on plastic substrates with an integrated circuit.

“The aim is also to make the solar cell more available in “sticker form”. Assuming you have a phone, the cell could be a sticker you could place at the back of your device, charging while you take a walk with an integrated circuit wireless feature.”

Dr. Selina Ama Saah is currently seeking collaborators to complete her research, and also commercialise this innovation of solar cells production in Ghana.

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