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Svitlana prepares the electrochemical cell in the Laboratory for Applied Materials Science.

Small crystals, more solar electricity: Svitlana from Cracow uses nanomaterials to conduct research

The most important things in life are often tiny. Nanoparticles, for example, are minute – a millionth of a millimetre, in fact. But they can make a huge impact on materials and technologies: they enable us to create more powerful computers, bacteria-free surgical instruments, and water-repellent or self-cleaning surfaces – such as car windscreens and domestic baths. Svitlana Sovinska knows all about nanomaterials. The scientist spent six months with us, conducting research in Steinfurt. And she is keen to deploy nanoparticles in another key area: renewable energies.

Small crystals, more solar electricity: Svitlana from Cracow uses nanomaterials to conduct research

The most important things in life are often tiny. Nanoparticles, for example, are minute – a millionth of a millimetre, in fact. But they can make a huge impact on materials and technologies: they enable us to create more powerful computers, bacteria-free surgical instruments, and water-repellent or self-cleaning surfaces – such as car windscreens and domestic baths. Svitlana Sovinska knows all about nanomaterials. The scientist spent six months with us, conducting research in Steinfurt. And she is keen to deploy nanoparticles in another key area: renewable energies.

“My work focuses on so-called one-dimensional semiconductor nanomaterials,” explained Svitlana. “These are needed, for example, to produce photovoltaic cells.” She is, as it were, in search of the perfect material combination to get even more out of our rooftop solar cells. “Certain nanocrystals, for example, are very stable, even under direct sun exposure. This extends the lifetime of solar modules, and therefore increases efficiency.”

Svitlana prepares the electrochemical cell in the Laboratory for Applied Materials Science.
Svitlana prepares the electrochemical cell in the Laboratory for Applied Materials Science.
Svitlana’s samples are at the end of white tube like thin layer. Electrochemical methods enables her to find out properties of the nanomaterial’s such as band gap, and the study of the kinetics of individual nanoparticles or chemical reactions at the nanoscale.
Svitlana’s samples are at the end of white tube like thin layer. Electrochemical methods enables her to find out properties of the nanomaterial’s such as band gap, and the study of the kinetics of individual nanoparticles or chemical reactions at the nanoscale.

To do this, Svitlana created several of her own material blends while she was still in Cracow – at the university of technology where she is doing a doctorate. Some mixtures are powdery samples in small transparent sachets, others are transparent solutions in small vessels and tubes. The native Ukrainian has also carefully prepared and synthesised them already. “It takes such a long time. I would have had no time left to characterise them if I’d had to do all this preparatory work here.” After all, her research focuses on characterisation or, to be precise, she wants to analyse the electrochemical properties or her nanomaterials. Svitlana measures her samples using a material analyser, and checks properties such as electrochemical potential and charge. “The lab here is really well equipped, and Professor Bredol is very cooperative and helpful!” Svitlana conducts her experiments with the greatest of care. “As the saying goes: ‘Measure ten times, cut once.’ Lab work is no different.”

Some nanomaterials can only be characterised in solution form.
Some nanomaterials can only be characterised in solution form.
Samples, samples, sample: Svitlana prepared her nanomaterials in Cracow, and brought them with her to Steinfurt for analysis.
Samples, samples, sample: Svitlana prepared her nanomaterials in Cracow, and brought them with her to Steinfurt for analysis.

Not surprisingly, Svitlana has little time for other activities. She goes to Münster twice a week to attend a beginners’ German course. “Which is a good thing, but German is really difficult. I have no idea when I should be using ‘der, die or das’.” Her research fellowship is part of the Polish academic exchange programme Iwanowska, which is funding Svitlana’s stay this time. In fact, she visited us once before: in 2018, Svitlana conducted research with Professor Bredol during a two-month internship. This is how the contact came about for her second stay. Unlike the first time she was here, Svitlana is now living in Steinfurt – in an international shared flat. “It’s amazing how multicultural even a small town can be.”

Although Svitlana enjoys her intense research work, far from home, she is looking forward to being back in Cracow: “Cracow is such a beautiful, large city with a lot going on. I’ve been living there for seven years now, and I love it!”

By Theresa Gerks


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