Prof. Dr. Tom Nilges

Prof. Dr. Tom Nilges

Associate Professorship of Synthesis and Characterization of Innovative Materials

Which research topics are you focused on in your working group?

We do solid-state chemistry and in particular energy materials, i.e. batteries, thermoelectrics and general work on the crystallization of metastable phases. That means we work with main group elements such as phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth. We also deal with one-, two- and three-dimensional semiconductors. We do a lot of synthetic chemistry and then characterize the compound.
The materials are then used to build semiconductor devices, such as field-effect transistor circuits, sensors or other components. At the moment we are working a lot on one-dimensional semiconductors and hybrid materials, i.e. we are trying to convert the semiconductor into a polymer with organic material and then test the properties of these hybrids.
Another project also deals with solid-state electrolytes. In principle, we make polymers that we spin electron and then introduce conductive salts to increase the conductivity, either for lithium, sodium or magnesium, to build solid-state electrolytes, which hopefully will find an application later on.
The latest project deals with rare earth element recycling. We are trying to extract rare earth elements from the waste from a construction company. These are extracted from kaolin residues, first inorganically and then biochemically, in cooperation with Prof. Brück.

How is the schedule and content of a research internship designed at your working group?

Well, we handle it depending on the topic. It is possible to do everything in one go or alongside the lectures during the semester. We have topics that only need work once a week, for example, compounds that are tempered or synthesized in the oven. But we can also give out topics that require an internship in one piece.

Which synthetical methods are used for the respective topics?

In principle, every solid-state chemical and wet chemical method. We do a lot of transport reactions in ampoules via the gas phase in a temperature gradient. We also do classic solid-state synthesis, the famous “crack and bake”, i.e. high-temperature synthesis. Piston chemistry is also possible, but within certain limits, i.e. nothing under extreme exclusion of air, but rather completely normal solvent chemistry and precipitation reactions. We also have a microwave oven in which reactions can be carried out.

Is a progress/final talk about the research internship planned?

We have not yet done this, but if the candidate wants it, we can do it at any time in the seminar.

With which working groups are overlapping topics possible?

With Prof. Gasteiger from the Department of Technical Electrochemistry. We also work closely with Prof. Rieger in the field of polymers and with Prof. Fässler in the field of solid-state chemistry.
We also have a joint seminar with Prof. Fässler’s chair, so if you want to give a lecture, you have to do it in front of Prof. Fässler’s people.

How and in what way can one apply for a research internship at your working group?

Well, you can either come to me and I will forward you to the working group, or the second option is to ask directly the working group and make an appointment with someone who has time. That is the easiest way. But both are possible.

What kind of previous knowledge is required for a research internship at your working group?

I would appreciate it if the interns had already done the X-ray course because diffraction is the hobby horse for us. Everything we do is first of all analyzied with the powder diffractometer. But it is not an absolute obligation. It would only make sense to know what you can do with X-ray methods, otherwise, there is no previous knowledge necessary. Everything you need with us, you learn “on the job”.

Can a research internship be expanded to a master’s thesis?

Sure. That is the point of the exercise. So if you are interested in continuing to work in the field, then we will find, maybe not the same topic, but something related.

How much cake does your working group expect?

You can make that out with the staff. You can say ‘hello’, I think. A solid-state chemist has to be able to cook, at least high-temperature synthesis, so a cake is part of it.