Vineetha Vinayakumar working in te lab
© UDE/Melanie Daamen

Why I do research: Vineetha Vinayakumar

Making electrodes robust for H2 production

  • von Juliana Fischer
  • 14.09.2023

‘We live in a world where energy demand is rising day by day’, says Dr Vineetha Vinayakumar. That’s why the materials scientist focuses on developing efficient and environment-friendly ways to produce hydrogen.

You are an expert on Materials Engineering. Can you explain your current research focus?

Currently, I focus on Green Hydrogen whose climate impact is negligible. One production method is the electrochemical splitting of water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Here, my research focuses mainly on the anode developments for alkaline electrolysis. As part of a hydrogen flagship project (H2Giga), I investigate electrodes composed of metal oxides at different stages of processing employing a coherent workflow to optimize each step individually thereby making these electrodes more efficient, stable and scalable. I apply my knowledge and experience in in-depth material characterization and processing using a set of complementary advanced techniques to investigate these electrode materials in their powder, suspension, and thin film form and use the information to further optimize them.

One way to apply nanoparticles is by producing thin films. What is the advantage of nanofilms and what have you researched in this area?

Thin films, renowned for their minimal material usage and remarkable properties tailored for specific purposes, provide a cost-effective and highly efficient solution for a wide range of applications. So far, I have done research on semiconductor, metal, and metal oxide thin films obtained through different techniques such as spray coating, combinatorial sputtering, chemical bath deposition, and thermal evaporation for applications in solar cells, photodetectors, and electrocatalysis. Following the fabrication of each thin film, conducting advanced characterization becomes paramount. This step enables us to establish a direct correlation between the thin film's properties and its performance in the intended application. Consequently, we gain the ability to fine-tune these properties to optimize thin film performance.

What is the most stunning research finding you have come across so far?

While developing an emerging material for the solar cell application, Copper antimony sulfide (CuSbS2), I optimized the synthesis conditions to obtain CuSbS2 solar cell absorber layers which obtained the highest-ever open-circuit voltage reported at that time.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying” is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. How does this relate to your life as a researcher?

Throughout my journey from a student to my current role as a team leader and postdoc, I've always embraced the idea that continuous learning is essential. As a researcher, my life revolves around a constant process of acquiring new knowledge and staying updated with the latest techniques and developments in the field. It's this ongoing pursuit of knowledge that keeps me excited in my research.

Materials Science in Duisburg-Essen and Bochum

The declared goal of the University of Duisburg-Essen and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum is to quickly and sustainably develop new and urgently needed materials for the energy transition, such as precious metal-free catalysts for green hydrogen production. The universities have been working closely together strategically within the Universitätsallianz Ruhr (UA Ruhr) since 2007. Outstanding interdisciplinary collaborations include theResearch Center Future Energy Materials and Systemsheaded by the Ruhr University, which has outgrown the flagshipMaterials Chainprogram. Since 2018, the specialists from the two universities have also been conducting research in the jointTransregio 247(Heterogeneous Oxidation Catalysis in the Liquid Phase).

 

 

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