Engr. Professor Kasim Uthman Isah

Wednesday 10th November 2021

 The world is moving towards more renewable energy and the country Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. The United States for instance is already mooting the idea of having 40 % of its energy demand from solar energy by the year 2035. Other more advanced countries have similar targets. The conversion of light into electricity in form of photovoltaics especially with abundant solar resources has the potential to supply much of the country's electricity demand apart from
addressing the negative impact on the environment from the use of fossils fuels energy generation. Also with significant room for cost reductions, from new and cheaper materials, low-cost materials synthesis procedure and improvement in conventional materials, solar technology can increase its contributions to the reliability and resilience of the power grid.
Thus basic fundamental research plays a great role in achieving the main objectives of pervasive photovoltaic usage. In short, materials science (physics) plays a critical role in achieving the goals of low cost, efficient and renewable sustainable energy sources and in understanding device fundamentals based on materials research.

Generally, materials scientists, (materials physicists, materials chemists and materials engineers) are still significantly low. Thus, the need to have more materials scientists to solve our technological challenges is paramount. Though in general Government does spend a huge amount of resources in sending scientists abroad for training, however, failure to provide adequately paid employment (low salaries) and facilities when they return home, have led to challenges of proper reassimilation on return home. This challenge has led to many overseas trained graduates remaining in the developed countries of training to the detriment of their home country. The long term solution is to improve the status and facilities in the country. With the provision of improved facilities training can be carried out in the country, rather than in developed countries, curbing the challenge of re-assimilation on return home.
Due to competing demands for funds from the government, it is suggested that specialized facilities and equipment be concentrated in a few sites across the country (research centres or facilities centres) for not only efficient utilisation but also proper maintenance by specially-trained hands. Maintenance is a real problem, as is the case in laboratories in developing countries with much unserviceable equipment, and no one available to carry out even minor repairs. Thus, the imperative for such specialised research centres, with trained requisite manpower. This can be more effective, as the centres should be large enough to have their own workshop and repair facilities.
Such centres should also have a broad technological focus which serves to promote a common interest among individuals from different scientific and engineering disciplines so as to engender collaborative multi-field research efforts. This will create an effective meeting ground for professionals of different disciplines for joint research programmes to be initiated and good research results obtained through the cross-breeding of ideas.