Building jointly: Developing the materials of the future needs interdisciplinary research

12. September 2016

Building jointly

Developing the materials of the future needs interdisciplinary research

Emil List-Kratochvil ist Professor für Hybride Bauelemente an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU). Bild: © Adlershof Special

Emil List-Kratochvil is Professor of Hybrid Componentry at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU)

Norbert Koch ist Professor für Struktur, Dynamik und elektronische Eigenschaften molekularer Systeme und fasziniert von der molekularen Elektronik. Bild: © Adlershof Special

Norbert Koch is professor of structure, dynamics, and electronic properties of molecular systems and fascinated by molecular electronics

The industrial production of photovoltaic cells or LEDs requires temperatures as high as 1600 degrees Celsius. If these temperatures were lower, manufacture might be conceived for flexible applications over wide areas. “The use of flexible substrates in applications is possible only when the process temperatures are no higher than 200 °C,” explained Emil List-Kratochvil, Professor of Hybrid Componentry at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU). “Production becomes more energy efficient, and therefore costs less. Furthermore, the resulting products have a broader range of applications.”

List-Kratochvil was called to the HU in 2015 from the Graz University of Technology and the research company NanoTechCenter (NTC) Weiz Forschungsgesellschaft mbH. He holds a so called joint professorial appointment, or chairs at two institutes, here the Physics and Chemistry Institute. Joint professorial appointments are to support the transfer processes between the disciplines. Mandated to promote interdisciplinary research into previously unknown properties of hybrid materials, the Integrative Research Institute for the Sciences IRIS Adlershof was set up specifically on the Adlershof Campus whose members also include List-Kratochvil.

In the material sciences, interdisciplinary expertise is the be-all and end-all. “Specifically when dealing with electroactive hybrid materials, scientists find it helpful to understand the terminology used by the other discipline,” explained List-Kratochvil. “And, in this manner, by expanding their skills in two disciplines, students also find the door open to greater professional flexibility.”

His colleague Norbert Koch – likewise with a joint professorial appointment at the HU and a member of IRIS Adlershof – is also a native Austrian like List-Kratochvil himself. Koch studied in Graz and then conducted research at Princeton University before returning to Berlin in 2003. This professor of structure, dynamics, and electronic properties of molecular systems is fascinated by molecular electronics. Behind this is the idea of realising one day the operations of electronic components with single or a small number of molecules engaging in specific interactions.

Koch is dedicated to boundary surfaces, or very thin material structures in the nanometre or, at most, micrometre range. External influences like air, temperature, or humidity induce huge changes in the electrical properties of these sensitive materials. The scientist first investigates their properties in vacuum. “Then we change the ambient influences and observe how the properties change,” explained Koch. The goal is to optimise processes in the production of thin film modules and enhance their efficiency. This can, for example, reduce the costs even further of providing solar energy in future.

By Mirko Heinemann for Adlershof Special

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