You just need to stop and look around yourself, says Martin Pumera. The new Research Group Leader at CEITEC

3. June 2019

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Renowned expert and one of the most cited chemists in the world Martin Pumera newly leads CEITEC BUT research group called Future Energy and Innovation. According to Pumera scientists in his team will focus mainly on new concepts in the field of energy. They want to become the leaders in creating and saving energy. The group has already received GAČR EXPRO project in which they will solve the problem of transforming electrical energy to chemical with the help of 2D materials. 

What exactly will be the focus of your new research group at CEITEC BUT? 

The Research Group is named Future Energy and Innovation. We focus on creating new concepts in the field of energy. We aim at new ways how to generate electrical energy and how to save it. We are interested in the future prospects, proof-of-concept of new solutions which will be marketed in twenty years. We are not trying to improve the capacity of a battery by percentage. In the field of energy generation, we are trying to solve how to transform human heat generated by body or chemicals in human sweat into electrical energy. This energy is literally free and always available. That way there is no need for recharging of the devices, but they are also not dependent on natural resources and lithium. It has a huge impact on manufacturing processes but also on independence in the area of natural resources. We also focus on how to save the energy from renewable resources. How to use it and transform it to useful chemicals. Or how to produce decentralized fuels with the help of this energy. It is not very known fact that the biggest polluter in transportation are nor cars neither planes but ships. To move tons of chemicals and fuels costs huge amounts of energy and fuel. We work on solution how to create these chemicals locally, with the use of clean energy. 

How do you put together the team? Are experts interested in CEITEC? 

From my experience scientists are always interested primarily in the name of the group leader and the topics of the group. Naturally I receive questions about technologies and working conditions at CEITEC and I answer they are really good. However, you cannot allure experts only with good technologies. The most important is the topic. In words of a classic: “It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.“

You have a big new GAČR project. What is the main focus there? 

The GAČR EXPRO project worth 50 million CZK is aiming at transformation of electrical energy to chemical one with the use of 2D materials. It has important implications in the field of batteries, energy storages, hydrogen production for hydrogen cars or transformation of CO2 to fuels and artificial photosynthesis. Objective of any industrial application is to make the transformation the least energetically lossy. We explore this change in 2D materials, how we can influence it, on which parameters of materials this change depends and how to minimalize the amount of energy needed. It is a basic research, but it will have an expensive impact on practical applications. With this understanding we will be able to design materials for batteries, artificial photosynthesis, etc. 

You also lead a research group at VŠCHT in Prague. How do the two teams and their focus differ?

It is completely different. At VŠCHT investigate the area of nanorobots which are tiny movable machines which fulfill preprogrammed tasks, such as implementation of medicaments or removal of toxic substances in the environment. At CEITEC BUT I primarily focus on basic and applied research of clean energy. I have been very active in both areas since my professorial position at university in Singapore. Both areas seem very different from the scientific point of view. However, from the practical point of view they solve the same problems that our society has – health and environment. 

And what inspires you in your work? 

Discussions with my colleagues, walking on street, watching nature. I really like a simple idea from the Mr. Bean movie. He says: “I sit and look at paintings”. Because stopping and looking is often enough. Then everything falls into place. You just have to look around yourself. 


Author: Zuzana Pospíšilová