University of Calgary

Turning up the heat on sustainable energy

UToday HomeDecember 7, 2012

Associate professor Thomas Baumgartner will work with German researchers on novel high-performance materials for use in sustainable energy. Photo courtesy Thomas BaumgartnerAssociate professor Thomas Baumgartner will work with German researchers on novel high-performance materials for use in sustainable energy. Photo courtesy Thomas BaumgartnerThomas Baumgartner, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Centre for Advanced Solar Materials in the Faculty of Science, has received the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The foundation, which is funded by the German government, presents up to 25 awards every year to “world-class scientists and scholars…whose cutting-edge advancements in their own disciplines are expected to continue and to have landmark impact beyond their immediate fields of work.”

“It’s a great honour to receive this award,” says Baumgartner. “It’s really prestigious and it’s great that my former home country recognizes me now as an outstanding Canadian researcher.”

Baumgartner’s work looks at the synthesis of molecular and polymeric materials for applications in light emitting diodes, converting energy in solar cells or storing energy in new types of batteries.

“The work that we do here is primarily at the first stage and I hope that my stay in Germany will help me to link up with several researchers there that are doing more of the applied side of things that could help give it a boost towards commercialization,” says Baumgartner.

Baumgartner will take a series of trips to Germany over the next year to first establish and then work in an interdisciplinary collaboration with Rik Tykwinski at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Baumgartner will also work closely with the Cluster of Excellence Engineering of Advanced Materials—a group like the Centre for Advanced Solar Materials that researches the fundamental and applied aspects of designing and creating novel high-performance materials.

“There needs to be a new paradigm,” says Baumgartner. “We need to look at completely new technologies and that’s what we do. We try to develop materials that hopefully in the next generation or two may find some commercial applications.”

Baumgartner says the technology toward sustainable energy is progressing. “You can buy TVs that have light emitting diodes in them. Solar cells and batteries are still a few years away but hopefully more commercialization can be done in five years or so.”

The collaboration between the University of Calgary’s Centre for Advanced Solar Materials and the German researchers will create a dynamic research environment to further promote interdisciplinary research excellence.