In Poems

Mike Weir

This is a poem for sulfur
A dazzling story to write
An element known since prehistory
Now useful in harvesting light

In stories of fire and brimstone
And smouldering visions of hell
Sulfur is blamed for creating a stink
But only its compounds smell

In human minds since antiquity
The alchemists valued it dearly
They uncovered a few of its secrets
But chemistry now sees it clearly

Sulfur burns bright in the faces
In the subjects of old photographs
A reaction called the barking dog
And its startling sulfurous flash

Now, if sulfur should react with lead
(an ancient substance too)
And form the appropriate crystal
There are incredible things we can do

We’ll need some other molecules
Semiconductors in fact
And build some crazy structures
That keep the lead sufhide intact

If the energy levels are optimal
(I won’t try and rhyme how that’s done)
The proper arrangement of crystals
Harvest light from our very own Sun

This poem is therefore a story of how
A sustainable trick has been learned
From the sum of humankind’s knowledge
Of the yellow stone that burns.


About the Author

I’m Mike and I’m a post-doc in the Department of Physics and Astronomy working on coatings to improve the efficiency of solar cells, along with my excellent colleague Dr. Dan Toolan in the Department of Chemistry. In my research, I like to use X-rays and neutrons to look inside materials and see what makes them up. I once took to my guitar to sing a polymer song under my mysterious alter ego, Mike Monomer. (It’s on YouTube!)