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Dr Katie Shanks

Dr Katie Shanks

Research Fellow

 +44 (0) 1326 259467

 Environment and Sustainability Institute ESI 01.25


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am a research fellow in the Environment and Sustainability Insittitue (ESI) at the Unviersity of Exeter Penryn Campus. My expertise lies in optics but encompases many contributing fields surrounding solar concentrator technology. This includes materials, surface structures, manufacturing methods, solar tracking, thermal managment, photovoltaic performances and biomimicry. I am happy to talk about any of my work, assist or collaborate on any projects no matter the background discipline. One of my key interests is developing intedisciplianry research, the methodologies, procedures for initiation and management as well.
I have been awarded an EPSRC  David-Clarke research fellowship. This research will be investigating optical nanostructures within nature, such as the cabbage white and glass wing butterfly wing scales (to begin with) for incorporation into new ultra-compact and lightweight solar panel technologies that can be integrated into various smart structures (laptops, phone, smart cars, smart buildings). 
Previously i have worked on novel optical designs and materials, taking advantage of opportunities to travel, work in different environments and in general get involved in new projects. Iwork involves various activities including organizing interdisciplianry workshops and postdoctoral conferences at the University of Exeter as well as various outreach events (science in the pub, school science days, royal cornwall show). I have spent 3 months in Spain carrying out research and working with academics at the University of Jaen testing and developing PV prototypes and similarly spent 4 months in India carrying out durability and temperature tests. More recently I was awarded the SPIE Woman in Engineering funding to visit and collaborate at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia for a month. This has lead to ongoing work on beamsteering optics and nanofluids.

I am open to collaborations and PhD applications, especially if interdisicplinary. Please get in touch to discuss and plan your project and potential funding schemes.


EPSRC Fellowship: "Invisible" Solar Technologies from bio-inspired Optics. start date: 01/01/2022. 
PhD in Renewable Energy at Unviersity of Exeter (July 2013 - Febuary 2017)
PhD title: Identification and Development of Novel Optics for Concentrator Photovoltaic Applications
First degree Mphys in Energy Science and Technology at Heriot-Watt University (2008-2013)


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Research interests

I am open to collaborations and PhD applications, especially if interdisicplinary. Please get in touch ( to discuss and plan your project and potential funding schemes (current EPSRC funding available, deadline: 19th Feb. 2024 EPSRC Studentships | Postgraduate Study - PhD and Research Degrees | University of Exeter).

I have a number of ongoing collaborations and side projects which i am interested in developing further. 
Topics of interest:

  • Structured optics (nano-macro size and including anti-reflective and beam-steering effects)
  • Biomimicry of natural structures (mainly for multi-functional lightweight optical devices but also to develop understanding of the natural structures in question)
  • Luminescent and flourscent materials as optics
  • 3D printing optics and their support structures
  • Solar powered vehicles, including automated drones.
  • Ultrahigh concentration
  • Nanofluid optical effects within CPVT systems
  • Developing interdisciplinary practices.

I am also a board member for Art and Energy, a project lead by Chloe Udon developing solar panel artwork and engaging with communities, schools and the public in general to understand and alter peoples perceptions of solar energy and science research in general.

I advise and collaborate with Upcycled Glass Company (UGC), founded and led by Ian Hanky, a glass crafter and artist. The Upcycled Glass Company work with SUEZ to take waste Glass materials to melt down and remake into a variety of applications, currently including: 1. new glass artworks, 2. raw material for other glass artists and 3. novel prototype glass optics for solar concentrators (where i come in). UGC fills the gap needed for a circular economy surrounding optics and energy. This project is still in early stages but the plan to to create novel concentrator optics from recycled glass to make less resource intensive solar energy technology. Upcycled Glass - Sustainable Art Glass in Devon (

Research projects

1. EPSRC Fellowship: "Invisible" Solar Technologies from Bio-Inspired Optics.
Start date: 01/01/2022.

What can a solar engineer learn from Butterflies?

Known for their beautiful wing patterns, butterflies, like all things within nature, are actually highly optimised systems tweaked over billions of years through evolution. –Which firstly, makes them excellent partners to cheat from.
One particular butterfly for example, the cabbage white, has developed a unique way of quickly warming its flight muscles in the morning. It can be found holding its white wings in a V-shape, which, originally puzzled scientists, but now, has been identified as a form of solar concentration.
Solar concentrators are simply things like magnifying lenses or concave mirrors that focus sunlight onto a reduced area of photovoltaic (solar sensitive) material. This is similar to the sunbathing mirrors you may have seen in films and TV shows where people use them to increase the sun on their face and neck. These optics can reduce the costs of solar panels and even increase the efficiency; but integrating optics into new forms of solar panels produces heavy and bulky designs.
The butterfly’s wings are however the perfect solar concentrator; extremely lightweight and optimised for all weather conditions. Through my biomimicry (copying nature) research at the University of Exeter I have analysed the fascinating nanostructures responsible for the cabbage white’s highly reflective, lightweight and surprisingly durable wings. Initial testing has shown copying these nanostructures could improve the power to weight ratio of current solar panel technology by as much as 17 times! My research delves into a variety of nano-fabrication techniques to develop a method to make enhanced solar technology that can be easily integrated into everyday structures such as smart cars, smart phones and of course smart buildings. All of which are absolutely essential as we speed up our progress towards a sustainable carbon neutral future.

2. ERDF-ESIF, Energy Indpendent Farming: I am currently working on a project which focuses on developing energy independent farms within Cornwall. This involves recording energy demand on our test farm site and the available renewable energy (wind, solar and biomass) and modelling optimum configurations of supply and demand for different scenarios (maximum energy demands, winter conditions, summer conditions, maximum bio-fuel yield).

2.1 Supergen Seedcorn Funding: Feasibility study of coupling solar concentrators with photocatalytic technology for biomass photo-reforming to hydrogen and sustainable energy fuels: As we progress towards a more sustainable network of energy we are faced with the increasing challenge of balancing renewable energy intermittences with energy storage to supply varying power demands. Currently, we still lack direct integration between renewable energy generation and energy storage to truly reduce the strain on the current grid system. Hence, this research investigates the feasibility of coupling solar energy concentration with biomass photo-reforming to sustainable energy fuels (incl. hydrogen). Photocatalysis is a light driven chemical process which generates powerful radical species that are capable of reforming biomass to desirable products via oxidation and reduction reactions. The impact of photons, specifically light intensity, is a key factor at the forefront of the transition between academic research and industry for this field. It is vital to investigate how intensifying incident light can impact the rate at which a reactions occurs. Such an integrated process could provide instantaneous and storable energy on site simultaneously and be blended into current biomass processing systems. This is completely novel research and the characteristics of such a system requires preliminary investigations to determine feasibility. If promising, the methods could be fed into the pioneering work by Bennamann, who are currently leading the ERDF funded project: Energy Independent Farming.


Developing solar concentator windows for the UK and China climates. This included working closely with industrial partners such as: Yorkshire Photonics, Brinell Vision, Evoenergy and Couch Perry Wilkes. Strong links are still maintained with Yorkshrie Photonics and Brinell Vision for their optical expertise and potential future projects are under application. This work focused on developing plastic optics which fit within standard double glazed windows producing electricity, some thermal heating and useful lighting and insulation to the rooms they were installed in. 

Research networks

Sustainability Lead for UK Metamaterials Network,

If you are interested in metamaterials (materials with sub-wavelength features/patterns) then please sign up at:

Please get in contact with myself if you are interested in sustainability applications of metamaterials.

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Journal articles

Li X, Li K, Sun Y, Wilson R, Peng J, Shanks K, Mallick T, Wu Y (2024). Comprehensive investigation of a building integrated crossed compound parabolic concentrator photovoltaic window system: Thermal, optical and electrical performance. Renewable Energy, 223
Cameron WJ, Alzahrani MM, Yule J, Shanks K, Reddy KS, Mallick TK (2024). Effects of partial shading on thermal stress and exergetic efficiency for a high concentrator photovoltaic. Energy, 288, 129818-129818.
Martin K, Shanks K, Liu Y, Kim J, Haghanifar S, Zarei M, Sharma S, Leu PW (2024). Minimizing annual reflection loss in fixed-tilt photovoltaic modules using graded refractive index (GRIN) anti-reflective glass. Solar Energy, 272, 112424-112424.
Alzahrani MM, Shanks K, Chanchangi Y, Cameron WJ, Maatallah TS, Mallick TK (2024). Record high solar concentration ratio for photovoltaics: Experimental validation for achieving effective concentration of >1200 suns. Solar Energy, 271, 112427-112427.
Cameron WJ, Alzahrani MM, Yule J, Shanks K, Reddy KS, Mallick TK (2023). Indoor experimental analysis of Serpentine-Based cooling scheme for high concentration photovoltaic thermal systems. Applied Thermal Engineering, 234, 121183-121183.
Motamedi M, Jia G, Yao Y, Shanks K, Yousefi P, Hewakuruppu YL, Rafeie M, Lindner F, Patterson R, Christiansen S, et al (2023). Nanopatterned indium tin oxide as a selective coating for solar thermal applications. Renewable Energy, 210, 386-396. Abstract.
Cameron WJ, Alzahrani MM, Yule J, Shanks K, Reddy KS, Mallick TK (2023). Outdoor experimental validation for ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic with serpentine-based cooling system. Renewable Energy, 215, 118926-118926.
Yang X, Barwani SA, Alhabradi M, Alruwaili M, Saremi-Yarahmadib S, Clarkson T, Roy A, Shanks K, Chang H, Tahir AA, et al (2023). Synthesis, characterization, and photocatalytic hydrogen evolution performance of neodymium iron composites: Influence of annealing temperature. Inorganic Chemistry Communications, 158 Abstract.
Zhang W, Li J, Xie L, Hao X, Mallick T, Wu Y, Baig H, Shanks K, Sun Y, Yan X, et al (2022). Comprehensive analysis of electrical-optical performance and application potential for 3D concentrating photovoltaic window. Renewable Energy, 189, 369-382.
Li Q, Zhuo Y, Shanks K, Taylor RA, Conneely B, Tan A, Shen Y, Scott J (2021). A winged solar biomass reactor for producing 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF). Solar Energy, 218, 455-468. Abstract.
Alzahrani M, Shanks K, Mallick TK (2021). Advances and limitations of increasing solar irradiance for concentrating photovoltaics thermal system. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 138 Abstract.
Ahmed A, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick T (2021). Energy and exergy analyses of new cooling schemes based on a serpentine configuration for a high concentrator photovoltaic system. Applied Thermal Engineering, 199 Abstract.
Li J, Zhang W, He B, Xie L, Hao X, Mallick T, Shanks K, Chen M, Li Z (2021). Experimental study on the comprehensive performance of building curtain wall integrated compound parabolic concentrating photovoltaic. Energy, 227 Abstract.
Alzahrani M, Roy A, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick TK (2021). Graphene as a pre-illumination cooling approach for a concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system. Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, 222, 110922-110922.
Pickering T, Shanks K, Sundaram S (2021). Modelling technique and analysis of porous anti-reflective coatings for reducing wide angle reflectance of thin-film solar cells. Journal of Optics, 23(2), 025901-025901. Abstract.
Alzahrani M, Ahmed A, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick T (2021). Optical component analysis for ultrahigh concentrated photovoltaic system (UHCPV). Solar Energy, 227, 321-333.
Ahmed A, Zhang G, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Ding Y, Mallick T (2021). Performance evaluation of single multi-junction solar cell for high concentrator photovoltaics using minichannel heat sink with nanofluids. Applied Thermal Engineering, 182 Abstract.
Khalid M, Shanks K, Ghosh A, Tahir A, Sundaram S, Mallick TK (2021). Temperature regulation of concentrating photovoltaic window using argon gas and polymer dispersed liquid crystal films. Renewable Energy, 164, 96-108. Abstract.
Sun Y, Liu D, Flor JF, Shank K, Baig H, Wilson R, Liu H, Sundaram S, Mallick TK, Wu Y, et al (2020). Analysis of the daylight performance of window integrated photovoltaics systems. Renewable Energy, 145, 153-163. Abstract.
Gadkari D, Shanks KS, Philipp HT, Tate MW, Thom-Levy J, Gruner SM (2020). Characterization of an architecture for front-end pixel binning in an integrating pixel array detector. Journal of Instrumentation, 15(11), T11002-T11002.
Ahmed A, Alzahrani M, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick TK (2020). Effect of using an infrared filter on the performance of a silicon solar cell for an ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic system. Materials Letters, 277 Abstract.
Alzahrani M, Baig H, Shanks K, Mallick T (2020). Estimation of the performance limits of a concentrator solar cell coupled with a micro heat sink based on a finite element simulation. Applied Thermal Engineering, 176, 115315-115315.
Al Siyabi I, Shanks K, Mallick T, Sundaram S (2020). Indoor and outdoor characterization of concentrating photovoltaic attached to multi-layered microchannel heat sink. Solar Energy, 202, 55-72.
Alzahrani M, Ahmed A, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick T (2020). Optical losses and durability of flawed Fresnel lenses for concentrated photovoltaic application. Materials Letters, 275, 128145-128145.
Ahmed A, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick TK (2020). Theoretical Investigation of the Temperature Limits of an Actively Cooled High Concentration Photovoltaic System. Energies, 13(8), 1902-1902. Abstract.
Shanks K, Knowles A, Brierley A, Baig H, Orr H, Sun Y, Wu Y, Sundaram S, Mallick T (2019). An experimental analysis of the optical, thermal and power to weight performance of plastic and glass optics with AR coatings for embedded CPV windows. Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, 200 Abstract.
Al Siyabi I, Shanks K, Khanna S, Mallick TK, Sundaram S (2019). Evaluation of concentrating photovoltaic performance under different homogeniser materials. Materials Letters, 241, 219-222. Abstract.
Spalding A, Shanks K, Bennie J, Potter U, Ffrench-Constant R (2019). Optical Modelling and Phylogenetic Analysis Provide Clues to the Likely Function of Corneal Nipple Arrays in Butterflies and Moths. Insects, 10(9). Abstract.  Author URL.
Shanks K, Ferrer-Rodriguez JP, Fernàndez EF, Almonacid F, Pérez-Higueras P, Senthilarasu S, Mallick T (2018). A >3000 suns high concentrator photovoltaic design based on multiple Fresnel lens primaries focusing to one central solar cell. Solar Energy, 169, 457-467. Abstract.
Sun Y, Shanks K, Baig H, Zhang W, Hao X, Li Y, He B, Wilson R, Liu H, Sundaram S, et al (2018). Integrated semi-transparent cadmium telluride photovoltaic glazing into windows: Energy and daylight performance for different architecture designs. Applied Energy, 231, 972-984. Abstract.
Shanks K, Baig H, Singh NP, Senthilarasu S, Reddy KS, Mallick TK (2017). Prototype fabrication and experimental investigation of a conjugate refractive reflective homogeniser in a cassegrain concentrator. Solar Energy, 142, 97-108. Abstract.
Shanks K, Senthilarasu S, Mallick TK (2016). Optics for concentrating photovoltaics: Trends, limits and opportunities for materials and design. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 60, 394-407.
Shanks K, Sarmah N, Ferrer-Rodriguez JP, Senthilarasu S, Reddy KS, Fernández EF, Mallick TK (2016). Theoretical Investigation Considering Manufacturing Errors of a High Concentrating Photovoltaic of Cassegrain design and it’s Experimental Validation. Solar Energy, 131, 235-245. Abstract.
Shanks K, Senthilarasu S, Mallick TK (2015). High-concentration optics for photovoltaic applications. Green Energy and Technology, 190, 85-113. Abstract.
Ffrench-Constant RH (2015). White butterflies as solar photovoltaic concentrators. Scientific Reports, 5


Sundaram S, Shanks K, Upadhyaya H (2018). 18 Thin Film Photovoltaics. In  (Ed) A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Energy Systems, Elsevier, 361-370.


Ahmed A, Alzahrani M, Shanks K, Sundaram S, Mallick TK (2022). Reliability and temperature limits of the focal spot of a primary optical component for an ultra-high concentrated photovoltaic system. 17TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CONCENTRATOR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS (CPV-17).
Shanks K, Ffrench-Constant R (2022). Understanding the anti-reflective glasswing butterfly for enhanced solar concentrator optics. Light in Nature IX.
Sun Y, Shanks K, Baig H, Zhang W, Hao X, Li Y, He B, Wilson R, Liu H, Sundaram S, et al (2019). Integrated CdTe PV glazing into windows: Energy and daylight performance for different window-to-wall ratio. Abstract.
Shanks K, Knowles A, Brierly A, Baig H, Sun Y, Wu Y, Mallick T (2019). Prototype optical modelling procedure and outdoor characterization of an embedded polyolefin crossed compound parabolic concentrator for integrated photovoltaic windows. Abstract.
Shanks K, Baig H, Knowles A, Brierley A, Orr H, Patel J, Foster N, Ball S, Sun Y, Wu Y, et al (2019). The Assembly of Embedded Systems for Integrated Photovoltaic windows in Rural Buildings (E-IPB). Abstract.
Shanks K, Senthilarasu S, Mallick T (2017). Reliability investigation for a built ultrahigh concentrator prototype. Abstract.
Siyabi IA, Shanks K, Mallick T, Sundaram S (2017). Thermal analysis of a multi-layer microchannel heat sink for cooling concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) cells. Abstract.
Mallick TK, Micheli L, Banerjee S, Shanks K, Lokeswaran S, Baig H, Calabria F, Sarmah N, Walker M, Theristis M, et al (2015). Status and perspective of concentrating photovoltaic systems: the results of the BioCPV project and opportunities for a sustainable energy supply to rural areas. Abstract.
Shanks K, Baig H, Mallick TK (2015). The Conjugate Refractive-Reflective Homogeniser in a 500x Cassegrain Concentrator: Design and Limits. PVSAT-11. 15th - 17th Apr 2015.
Perez-Higueras P, Pablo Ferrer-Rodriguez J, Shanks K, Almonacid F, Fernandez EF (2015). Thin Photovoltaic Modules at Ultra High Concentration.  Author URL.
Shanks K, Sarmah N, Reddy KS, Mallick T (2014). The Design of a Parabolic Reflector System with High Tracking Tolerance for High Solar Concentration.  Author URL.

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