The Future of Energy: Research at the Chemicum – Pavle (Serbia)

University of Tartu has long been known as a prolific place for young and budding researchers – as well as already affirmed and respected ones – and academic work makes up a significant amount of vocations of the city’s residents. As a part of the Faculty of Science and Technology and more specifically, the Institute of Chemistry, situated on the Chemicum’s fifth floor is one such haven – the Department of Physical Chemistry.

After such a prolonged and self-serious introduction, it might be worth to push the grandiosity even a little further and explain the ideology of all the research being done on this floor. You see, being a scientist isn’t just about the glamour (as you all know, hardly any other job is as glamourous) – it’s also about responsibility.  We live in strange times and the environmental issues are one of the, if not the most, pressing topics of the contemporary age. With evidence of natural devastation and red alerts colouring our everyday life, most people would agree that the current environmental crisis is directly caused by humanity’s impact on the planet. But let’s leave the doom and gloom at the door for a second and ask another question: it being a much more important one – how do we solve it? These sorts of puny questions are attempted to be addressed by the researchers here. Small stuff, a usual day at work.

The common theme of all the research being done here presents itself  – finding innovative ways of handling our societies energy requirements, while also providing fresh solutions that severely reduce the impact on the biome. This, among others, include workgroups that work on such cool stuff as supercapacitors, proton exchange membrane fuel cells, and hydrogen storage material. All of these are related to our energy needs and hence involve a lot of physics, chemistry and the mish-mash of the two (See! Physical chemistry!).  The official banner of these workgroups is (behold) – Advanced materials and high-technology devices for energy recuperation systems at the Centre of Excellence, an EU funded body. You can read more about these here. (Note: The Centre of Excellence is a wider body that consists of more research centres at UT than these – even our colleagues from the Tallinn University are involved in some). A handy and popular-scientific introduction to some of the topics I broached here can also be found in a fun format on the Chemicum’s official website.

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I, personally, am involved with the hydrogen storage group. The goal of our group being to find an adequate medium to store hydrogen (a potent, clean fuel) so it has a harder time of going ka-boom when you put it in a car and let it run (i.e. when you don’t want it to), among other, more serious and less explosive efficiency reasons (including among others volume, cost, kinetics, etc.). As I’ve already mentioned – fun stuff.

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Most of these projects are fully funded and some are still establishing the core groups so are as-of-yet unidentifiable. If you are interested in applying for the opportunity to join one of these groups either on your thesis work or just generally wish to participate in saving the world, to quote one of my colleagues, my suggestion would be to research your fields of interests on the website of the Faculty of Science and Technology (more specifically, Institute of Chemistry) and send an email to one of the group heads, expressing why exactly you should be the one to help push us into the future by coming up with new, innovative solutions of the current energy problems. Good luck!