Materials student strikes gold

Thursday 22 June 2017

For her PhD project Wenjie Yang has asked her supervisor for a lot of gold.

It's not for bling; she wants to embed it into silicon as part of the quest to make it a better absorber of light, for future solar cells and sensors.

"It's unconventional, because gold normally kills the carrier lifetime.  But if you put a lot of gold in – more than what can be achieved naturally – it forms a new band in silicon and makes it absorb more light. It's very interesting," says Wenjie.

It's a quest she got interested in during her Engineering degree at UNSW. She’s found the shift across to a Physics PhD challenging, but has found plenty of support from her research group.

"My supervisor is super-nice – if I don’t know something he doesn't make a fuss, he just tells me," she says.

Having a good mentor or supervisor is important, Wenjie says.

"When choosing a project do your research so you make sure you will be in an environment where you feel comfortable and productive."

Another plus for Wenjie has been having access to the Australian National Fabrication Facility, which is housed at the Research School, and allows PhD students to use the facilities.

"We're in a time where we no longer need to deal with what Nature gives us, we can make materials behave in a way we want them to," she says.

Wenjie, who went to high school in Adelaide, has also enjoyed the community at ANU Physics, with a tighter-knit group than in her large undergraduate degree at UNSW.

"I feel closer to my fellow PhD students," she says. "Canberra is smaller but has everything you'd want. "

 

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