Police officer and material scientist

Meet Dr Charles Opiyo Ayieko, a materials science PhD graduate from University of Nairobi working for the Kenyan Police. 

Dr Chales Opiyo Ayieko did his PhD as part of the ISP-supported solar cell research group at University of Nairobi. Before and during his studies, Charles was employed by the Kenyan Police Service, studying partly during the day and working at night. After graduating in 2017, he still works as Chief Inspector of the Police.

His PhD research focused on material science applied in solar thermal solutions, in other words using solar radiation for heating water using selective surface materials.

- Before I started working for the police I took courses in solar energy. When I got employed, I found that most of the police operations are in remote rural areas, off the power grid. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to study alternatives, such as solar energy, so that I at some point could provide help to the police with my research.

We met at the roof of the Physics Department building, where Charles together with technician Mr Boniface Muthoka has built a live size prototype of a solar thermal heating system. With this prototype he has tested the efficiency of both plain and textured surfaces materials, and has managed to reach 70° C with the more efficient textured surface.

There is a large demand for research and products related to solar thermal heating in Kenya, driven by a new law that came in to effect in 2017, stating that buildings with a hot water capacity over 100 liters per day need to install and use solar heating systems. Kenya has come far in the use of solar cells (photovoltaics) to provide electricity to houses but, according to Charles, there is still a long way to go when it comes to thermal heating of water both on the research and manufacturing side.

Since he graduated, he spends some of his spare time consulting MSc and undergraduate students and assisting his fellow PhD students. If he finds time he also attends conferences to keep up in the area.  In the future, he wants to do full time research on renewable energy and solar energy.

- I want to start a forum between research teams, the industry and costumers, which will help to improve the solar thermal systems provision in Kenya.

Dr Chales Opiyo Ayieko and technician Mr Boniface Muthoka showing the prototype of a solar thermal heating system.

December 2018