Painting Energies Podcast

Painting Energies is a podcast about light, colour, plants, microbes, and electrical energy. Eleven conversations with invited guests explore their relations, and our relations to them, through a dialogue across science, technology, art and philosophy.
Logo of the Paintint Energies Podcast showing overlapping abstract shapes that resemble paint patches on a painter's color palette.

The topics of the conversions emerge from a transdiscplinary artscience research process that took place in Aalto University since 2017 and led to creation of a unique solar panel painting. In the artwork, plant-based colorants hand-painted on glass convert light to electricity while interpreting the colours and patterns of an iconic painting by J.M.W. Turner. In the process of making and thinking, we came across many observations and questions that we wish to share with you through moments of focus and joyful reflection.

We recommend to first watch the 15 min documentary film below. The film tells about the artwork and the artscience journey that led to it, and introduces the hosts.

The podcast is hosted by Janne Halme (physicist) and Bartaku (artist researcher).

Listen to the podcast in Soundcloud.


Screenshot of a smartphone app measuring the color coordinates of the Sun in the sky (RGB: 255 255 255, CMYK 0 0 0 0, "White", "Bright White").
The Colour of the Sun is not Round.  Photo by Bartaku (ColorAssist app; Baroa b. plantation, Latvia, 2016 ).

#0 Introducing - with Janne Halme and Bartaku

In this episode the hosts Janne Halme and Bartaku introduce themselves and the podcast. They tell about the co-creation process that led to the podcast, and exchange thoughts, wishes and expectations about the forthcoming episodes.

Bartaku tells how he got the inspiration for working with the plant Aronia melanocarpa, why he calls it Baroa Belaobara and the berryapple, and how its connection to the iconic painting by JMW Turner emerged. We hear about the poetic aspects that pulled Bartaku to work with the plant and how the Aamo artsience group formed.

Janne tells how he started working on dye-sensitized solar cells, what motivated him to study them as a physicist, and how he learn the craft of making and measuring the cells. In the conversation, Janne asks Bartaku how he felt about working with the more technological version of the solar cell, and Bartaku asks Janne how his colleagues have perceived his collaboration with an artist.

The hosts anticipate some of the topics for the forthcoming episodes, including the notion of `bio´ solar cell, the use of plant-based colorants in the solar cell, and the function of the human visual system and the perception of colours. In a broader perspective, they wish to converse with their guests on the poetic, aesthetic and bioethical aspects of technology, and the institutional and administrative conditions required for successful art-science collaboration.

Listen to this episode on Soundcloud.

A researcher taking electrical measurements from the dye-sensitizd solar cell artwork
Testing electrical performance of Aronia m. dye painted glass solar cells. Photo by Janne Halme (2020).

#1 Dye-sensitized solar cells - with Anders Hagfeldt

In this episode, our guest is Professor Anders Hagfeldt. Anders is considered one of the world’s leading researchers in dye-sensitized solar cells. By developing new synthetic dyes and electrolyte reduction-oxidation pairs and studying their function at the molecular scale, his research teams have significantly improved the efficiency of dye solar cells and the understanding of how they work. He is currently Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University and Professor of Physical Chemistry.

In 2005 Janne worked as a visiting doctoral student in Anders's research group at KTH in Stockholm, where he learned the craft of making and measuring dye solar cells better. In the episode we hear what made Anders interested in photoelectrochemistry and become a PhD student, and how he learned to build dye solar cells at EPFL in Switzerland under Michael Grätzel and Brian O’Regan in 1990 - at the time of their breakthrough discovery of the modern dye-sensitized solar cell.

We discuss why natural dyes are less durable than synthetic dyes and how the solar cell protects them from degradation by light. We share stories about how inspiring and rewarding it is to make solar cells with your own hands, and discuss how scientific breakthroughs are most often made, what accidental discoveries he and his team has made, and where does the dye-sensitized solar cell technology stand today. Among many other things, we ponder why combining scientific and artistic careers is difficult, how the creativity of young researchers can best be supported, and how research and improvisation music are alike.

More about the guest: Prof. Anders Hagfelt / Uppsala University

Listen to this episode on Soundcloud


This podcast was made possible with support from Aalto University: Aalto Online Learning, the Diversity and Inclusivity Fund of the School of Science, and Materials Platform.

The podcast was created and produced by Janne Halme and Bartaku. Special thanks to Tomi Kauppinen and Henni Kervinen. Graphic design: Mari Kaakkola. Sound engineering: Oskari Martimo.

Towardless: Plant-based Electrical and Art Energy, exhibition 2021021

The podcast was released at the exhibition on September 10, 2021. Part of the exhibition Designs for a Cooler Planet, Towardless is on display 8.9.–29.9.2021 in Aalto University, Otaniementie 14, V2 gallery, 2nd floor and thereafter online.

Blck Vlvt solar panel (detail)

Towardless: Plant-based Electrical and Art Energy

Solar cells and research material that originate from art_craft, art_science and scientific investigations, and the questioning of light, energy, bodies and matter - including the first hand-painted solar panel.

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