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Molecular engineer receives DAAD scholarship

Converting Greenhouse Gases Sensibly

  • von Dr. Alexandra Nießen
  • 12.12.2023

Methane is really heating up our planet. Dr Astita Dubey, postdoctoral researcher in the group of Prof. Dr Doru C. Lupascu at the Institute of Materials Science, has been spending a year in the USA since November researching how climate-damaging methane can be converted into usable substances. Her project is funded by a PRIME Fellowship* from the German Academic Exchange Service.

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for 200 years. Carbon dioxide (CO2) holds the leading position, accounting for more than 50 percent. Following closely, methane (CH4) contributes 30 percent, but it is eighty times more impactful in climate change than CO2.

Methane is emitted from various natural sources, such as wetlands, melting permafrost, and anthropogenic sources like agriculture, decaying landfills, and the production, transport, and exploitation of coal, natural gas, and oil. The cultivation of rice alone is responsible for 8 percent of methane emissions, generated by bacteria thriving in the oxygen-poor environment of the flooded fields.

Photocatalysts are materials that accelerate chemical reactions by absorbing sunlight (photons). They facilitate the degradation of (in)organic pollutants through the assistance of reactive oxygen species, thereby contributing to the purification of air and water and promoting environmental sustainability. Dr Dubey analyses the so-called perovskite materials as photocatalysts, which are used in applications such as photovoltaics, fuel cells, sensors and optoelectronics. "I synthesise different types of perovskites and test their catalytic performance. This is crucial for optimising the efficient photocatalysts," explains the postdoc.

In the USA, she employs methodical machine learning and high-throughput combinatorics to chemically synthesize and characterize more than a hundred substances. She is supported at the University of Tennessee Knoxville by the research group led by Professors Sergei Kalinin and Mashid Ahmadi, both experts in the field of materials science. Additionally, she receives assistance from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a research and development center for energy and environmental issues. Upon returning to Germany, the PRIME fellow will continue the project with UDE Professor Lupascu until March 2025.

* PRIME is the abbrevation for “Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience“. The fellowship programme is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

More information:       
Dr Astita Dubey, Institute of Materials Science, V17 R02 H49, astita.dubey@uni-due.de und adubey2@utk.edu

Editorial office: Dr Alexandra Niessen, Tel. +049 (0)203/37-91487, alexandra.niessen@uni-due.de

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