Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

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Tagged: Suzy Wallace

Science by the Sea: APS Meeting 2016 and Visiting Duke University

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📥  Internships & visits, Seminars & Conferences

The following blog is written by Suzy Wallace.

This year the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting was held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA from the 14th to 18th of March. I was fortunate enough to attend a tutorial day before the conference and to present my research on the potential new solar absorber material for solar cells, CZTS (Copper zinc tin sulphide).

This particular conference is amongst the largest physics conferences held each year with almost 10,000 attendees and around 50 or 60 symposia occurring at any given time with most talks only lasting ten minutes– so there was always potentially a lot to learn and you certainly were not short of things to do! The conference organisers even design a phone app for the conference to help you keep track of your schedule so that you don’t miss anything!  In addition to that there were a number of other events going on during the conference (such as the ‘rock n roll physics sing-a-long’ one evening) and also a lunch time special where you sign up to have a packed lunch with an expert in a particular field and a small number of other interested students. This was a great opportunity to discuss and get some advice on your research and career. It was also a great opportunity to ask questions to further your own understanding without having the slightly daunting situation of asking a potentially silly question in front of a very big audience!


Baltimore was certainly an interesting city with lots of character to it! There seemed to be an interesting mixture of very artsy places and then much more urban areas. Then of course the harbour was beautiful and the seafood there was very good. I tried oysters for the first time there, conveniently during ‘oyster happy hour’ when they were $1 each!

After the conference in Baltimore I hopped over a state to head to Duke University in North Carolina to spend two weeks starting a new project with my international supervisor, Dr Volker Blum from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and his group, the "Ab initio materials simulations" group. The students and postdoctoral researchers in the group develop an atomistic simulation code (FHI-aims), which can be used to predict the properties of materials for various applications. In my case, it is the properties of a material that could indicate the potential to make a good solar cell that I’m looking for. Interacting with people who develop the methods you use is such a great learning experience, it also happened that there were a number of interesting guest speakers visiting the university while I was there so I got to attend even more talks!

As well as discussing simulating materials on computers, we also visited the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina at the weekend as a research group. This was such a beautiful coastal area with some amazing sand dunes, lots of light houses and this was also where the Wright brother’s first flight in a controlled, powered vehicle took place (presumably due to the soft landing space provided by the sand dunes!). There was certainly a lot to see at the Outer Banks for such a small strip of land and of course where better to discuss calculating a material’s properties using the many-electron wavefunction than at the beach after all!


Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA (left) and the Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA (centre and right, although it wasn’t quite as sunny for us as it is in the far right photo!).

Suzy is working towards her PhD on 'Overcoming the efficiency bottleneck of metal sulfide solar cells' with Professor Aron Walsh, Professor Chris Bowen and Professor Mark Weller.


6th European Kesterite Workshop

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Mako Ng.

A trio of CSCT students (Adam Jackson, Suzy Wallace and I) attended the 6th European Kesterite Workshop at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

A little bit of background about us; all three of us are working with an earth-abundant, non-toxic photovoltaic material called kesterite, which is made from copper, zinc, tin and sulphur. Adam also attended the workshop two years ago in Berlin.

There was a student workshop the day before the actual conference, where more experienced students in this field, including Adam, gave talks on their work. They also offered help and gave feedback on experimental results other students brought, which I found very useful.

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

The first day of the conference was packed with talks, from device performance and material properties, to structural properties, defects, ordering-disordering phenomena, and finally device architecture and interfaces. Since all the talks were about kesterite and very relevant to all, the concentration required resulted into coffee running out very quickly during breaks. The majority of speakers were from IREC and HZB, who hosted the workshop in 2011 and 2013 respectively. They are also the key players in this field in Europe.

There was a poster session before the conference dinner. Suzy's poster, which was about using computational chemistry to calculate disorder and inhomogneity in kesterite solar cell, had attracted a lot of attention.


Poster session

The second day started with a technical problem (something that happens in a lot of conferences!). The good thing about that was, the organiser then combined two parallel discussion groups together. Being in the discussion group was like watching season 5 of a TV series before watching the previous seasons! VOC deficit is still a major issue of this material, and unfortunately, no one is able to solve this problem just yet. We also pointed out the band gap varies with different measuring techniques, which made direct comparison between different devices impossible.

Before I could head back to my lab to try out all those new ideas from this conference, I went to another conference in the United States. Watch this space for another blog from me soon!

Mako is working towards his PhD on "Solution-processed solar cells from earth-abundant elements" with Professor Mark Weller, Dr Aron Walsh and Dr Philip Shields.


IUMRS-ICAM 2015 - Culture, Climbing and Conferences.

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

The following blog is contributed by Suzy Wallace from the 2014 Cohort.

On the 26th of October I presented my research on the potential earth abundant and non-toxic solar cell absorber material CZTS (Cu2ZnSnS4) at the IUMRS-ICAM 2015 conference for materials research on Jeju Island in South Korea. We attended three days of the conference where research was focused on a wide variety of different advanced, nanostructured and novel materials for various applications.

Wearable thermoelectric devices seemed to be quite a popular topic! A thermoelectric material is able to use a temperature difference to generate electricity, so the idea would be to use your own body heat to, for example, charge your phone! Research therefore was focused not only on making the devices more efficient and cheap but also to be flexible and durable. Conveniently, Jeju also happens to be a tourist hot-spot at the southernmost part of South Korea and a great place for hiking! So I managed to squeeze in a quick half day of hiking up Hallasan Mountain on our last day on the Island before we headed back to the mainland to visit universities in the capital city, Seoul.



What a city Seoul is! I could write a whole blog just on Seoul alone but I’ll try to refrain.

Whilst in Seoul we visited two research groups, that of Professor Aloysius Soon at Yonsei University and that of Professor William Jo at Ewha Women’s University. Professor Soon’s group are focusing on computational research on nanomaterials and Professor Jo’s group synthesise and characterise the solar cell materials that we model computationally in my research group. Both groups made us feel incredibly welcome and all the discussions provided lots of opportunities to ask questions both about the Science and Korean history and culture. I particularly liked when one of Professor Soon’s students (John) was explaining to me how to pronounce bibimbap (a very tasty Korean rice dish that can be served in a hot or cold pot bowl with all sorts of additions such as egg, vegetables, meat, seafood, kimchi and hot sauce), he told me to say the middle syllable as ‘bim like electron beam’.

I also thought that Professor Soon’s description of Seoul summed it up pretty well  – convenient. There’s so much to see and do and everything is easy to get to using the subway, the food was great and you could get food pretty much anywhere and anytime. The people were really friendly and there was a really interesting fusion of old and new with remainders of the old city walls (referred to as the gates) dotted around the city next to big sky scrapers (the Dongdaemun gate is shown in a photo below).

Another great aspect of Seoul for me was the close proximity of yet more mountains! So I was able to go to Bukhansan National Park for rock climbing at the weekend… and as it was Halloween some fancy dress was also involved. When I was out-and-about climbing and sightseeing at the weekend, I spoke to quite a few different people and was struck by just how interested people are in scientific research, especially when it relates to the environment. I chatted to some American tourists while I was looking for a particular tourist attraction in Seoul (Namsan Tower), and it turned out that they were members of an environmental organisation back in the states. Then, when I was out with the climbers and the topic of ‘what do you do’ came up in conversation, we got to have some really interesting discussions on the way up to our climbing route (and also whilst drinking some Korean beer and soju after!). I even heard about a new energy technology for the first time from a couple of the climbers – supercapacitors – so I scurried off to google them to learn more the next day!

So I’d say you learn a lot from listening to talks at conferences and engaging in discussions there as well as during university visits, but there’s also no need to limit yourself to only talking about Science there! Even during the 12 hour flight back from Seoul I had an interesting conversation whilst queuing for the loo with someone from IBM on how Watson (the question answering computer system designed to answer questions posed in natural language) could be really useful for helping scientists to keep up to date on rapidly developing areas of research (perovskite solar cells sprung to my mind immediately!).

It’s surprising just how many people are interested in scientific research and how much you can learn in rather unusual settings!


Suzy is working towards her PhD on 'Overcoming the efficiency bottleneck of metal sulfide solar cells' with Professor Aron Walsh, Professor Chris Bowen and Professor Mark Weller

European Materials Research Society 2015 Spring Meeting

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Three CSCT students, Adam Jackson, Suzy Wallace and Oliver Weber, attended and gave talks at the 2015 European Energy Materials Research Society (E-MRS) Spring Meeting. Suzy writes about her experience:

CSCT student Suzy Wallace (left) and University of Bath student Ruoxi Yang (right) at the conference venue.

CSCT student Suzy Wallace (left) and University of Bath student Ruoxi Yang (right) at the conference venue.

The conference was held in Lille (France) from 11 - 15 May. The meeting included international workshops such as the UK-Korea workshop and 32 parallel symposia on key topics for the synthesis and characterisation of nanostructured, functional and advanced materials for energy applications, such as water treatment and splitting, photovoltaic and nuclear power generation. There was a particularly strong presence from the University of Bath at the conference in symposium D (Earth abundant and emerging solar energy conversion materials) with three talks from CSCT students, another from a PhD student at Bath (Ruoxi Yang) and an invited talk from Professor Aron Walsh from the CSCT.

I was fortunate enough to be speaking on the first day of the conference so was able to get my nerves out of the way nice and early! It was incredibly motivating to hear so many talks about the particular earth-abundant PV material I’ve just begun to study this year for my MRes project by academics from various other institutions all over Europe. Discussions with other researchers in the field after giving my talk were also great for sparking new ideas for further studies. Hearing fellow students from Bath talk about their work on different materials was also very interesting. My personal favourite nugget of knowledge here was that the Chinese translation of 'antimony' (Sb), from the PV material Ruoxi’s been studying (antimony sulphide), is 'idiot'. As well as gaining knowledge on my specific area of research during the conference, I was also introduced to some other seemingly weird and wonderful areas of research, such as studies involving skyrmions. Although they sound like evil alien invaders, it turned out that skyrmions are quasi-particles that are important in devices made from nanoscale magnetic materials.

There were poster sessions for each symposium most evenings apart from Wednesday evening. I particularly enjoyed the poster sessions (in addition to the wine, cheese, bread and various other very French treats); the sessions were a great opportunity to ask all the questions you’d rather not ask in front of a room full of people during the talk sessions. In my case, as a theorist, I seize the opportunity to badger experimental scientists to get a better understanding of their techniques. Wednesday evening was the big event with the plenary session followed by dancing. The plenary session was attended by everyone at the conference with invited talks from four academics including Professor Aron Walsh from the CSCT who spoke to the huge audience about the hot topic in the PV world - perovskites - with his talk entitled ‘Why hybrid halide perovskites keep me awake at night’ and received the EU-40 Materials Prize in recognition of outstanding contributions to materials research by a scientist under 40 years of age. This was definitely a very proud moment for the whole research group with Aron on the big stage!

Suzy is in her first year of the CSCT, working on Metastability and Octahedral Tilting in Halide Perovskites with Professor Chris Bowen and Professor Aron Walsh