By: jplonjaret & Niklas Hausmann
“JUGENDFORSCHT”: Two young students (11th class) from the Romain-Rolland-Gymnasium in Berlin-Reinickendorf get support from a BIG-NSE student in order to improve their "Jugendforscht" project.
UPDATE: On May 19, Florian, Anna Noemi and Niklas won the fifth prize in Chemistry on the national level of the competition!
During the last weeks, Niklas Hausmann, BIG-NSE fellow from batch WS18 and PhD student in the group of Prof. Driess, TU-Berlin, has been helping two students from the "Romain-Rolland-Gymnasium" ("RoRo"), situated in the Berlin district of Reinickendorf, further develop their “Jugendforscht” project in an attempt to win the next competition level.
The two RoRo students, Florian Krebs und Anna-Noemi Lotz, already submitted a primary version of their project, which title is “Solare Wasserstoffgewinnung – Energie für die Zukunft?”, some months ago. With this version, they first managed to get the first prize of the “Jugendforscht” competition on “local level” (“Berlin Mitte”).
Additionally, on March 27, they won at the next level of the competition, the regional one (Berlin). Therefore they were invited to compete on the national level and present a further improved version of their project on at the Bundeswettbewerb 2019, which took place in Chemnitz from May 16 to 19, 2019.
UPDATE: Florian and Noemi won the 5th prize on national level in the "Chemistry" competition! A huge congratulations to them and to Niklas!! In addition to this success, they also won a special prize, offered by the Ernst A. C. Lange Foundation: An invitation to participate at the International Youth Science Forum in London, including a 14-day stay at the Imperial College, together with 500 young researchers from 70 Countries! There they will present their project with a poster. Last but not least they will also received an invitation by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 4, 2019! Not bad!
We wish Florian, Anna-Noemi a good continuation of their scientific career!
Picture: Florian, Anna-Noemi and Niklas (from l to r), in Niklas’ lab.
Aim of their project is it to make a device that uses the energy from sunlight to directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The preliminary device can be seen in Florian’s hand in the above picture. It contains a silicon-based photovoltaic unit that collects light and generates electricity out of it. Inside the device two electrodes, separated by a membrane, bath in an alkaline water solution. Electricity from the sunlight is transferred to these electrodes, water gets split into O2 at the anode and into H2 at the cathode. The membrane prevents any mixing of the two gases. Hydrogen is a potential green fuel of the future. When burnt, water is created as exhaust product. Hence H2 is a climate-neutral and environmental-friendly fuel. Furthermore, it can be converted into electricity in a so-called fuel cell, thus most of the car producers in the world are developing or already selling cars running with hydrogen instead of gasoline. Such a device also fixes a general problem of solar power, which is that the sun does not necessarily shine when energy is needed. Therefore, energy has to be stored when the sun shines, for example in form of hydrogen. The latter can then be transformed into electricity or heat when needed. The device build by the student could easily be implemented on rooftops and then produce the energy needed by the inhabitants of the house on demand.
For water splitting, a suitable catalyst has to be deposited on the electrode surface. For this purpose, Florian and Anna-Noemi already tested several materials with regard to their stability and efficiency. So far, it turned out that platina was quite suitable as a material for the cathode where H2 is produced, and nickel for the counter electrode, where O2 is formed to supply the electrons needed for the H2 generation. In the next step, the two students want to test other catalysts to further increase the efficiency of the process and to replace scarce and expensive materials such as platina. That is where the collaboration with Niklas, who has been working on electrocatalytic water splitting for his PhD for almost one year already, makes a lot of sense. He and the two young students have therefore been testing several catalysts for their project in his lab during the last weeks. They have been able to replace the platina-based electrode with a high surface area NiMo electrode that is more than ten times more active and much cheaper, than the platina one, since molybdenum is thousand times more abundant than Pt. The counter-electrode could be replaced by a high surface area NiFe foam, which showed an at least thousand times higher activity than the previously used flat Ni electrode.
This is not the first time that PhD students from BIG-NSE support students from RoRo for this competition. Our collaboration with the Romain-Rolland-Gymnasium and its much-engaged representative, Dr. Angela Köhler-Krützfeldt, working as chemistry teacher there, goes back to 2014. Several projects supported by some of our students since have won the first prize on different levels (local, regional, national), in different categories (chemistry, biology, work environment). At least one project resulting from this collaboration between RoRo and the TU-Berlin /UniCat/BIG-NSE, won the first price on the national level.
Below, more information on the "Jugendforscht" project (source: Wikipedia).
Jugendforscht (literal translation: “Youth researches”) is a German youth science competition which was initiated in 1965. It is the biggest youth science and technology competition in Europe, with more than 10,000 participants annually.
Participants work on a self-chosen research project, hand in a written report about their work, and then present their results first at regional levels and later at a national contest to an expert jury, usually in the form of a poster session, often including a practical demonstration. Contest juries often invite university or industry experts to referee some of the projects, especially at the national contest, due to a high level of specialization.
Participants can enter in one of seven subject groups:
- Geosciences and Astronomy
- Mathematics and Computer Science
- Work environment
Participants must not be older than 21 years and can enter the competition either on their own or in teams of up to three. University students are only allowed to participate during their first year of study. Participants younger than 15 years compete in a separate contest called “Schüler experimentieren” (“Pupils experiment”). Winners receive prizes donated by industrial sponsors.