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Wagenknecht and Turlington ’16 present research in Poland

A collaborative learning environment where students work alongside professors has long been a hallmark of Furman’s liberal arts offering. With that opportunity often come other perks. Chemistry major and Beckman Scholar Michael Turlington ’16 joined chemistry professor Paul Wagenknecht, Ph.D., in Kraków, Poland to present research at a photochemistry conference.

Held biennially, the International Symposium on the Photochemistry and Photophysics of Coordination Compounds (ISPPCC) takes place in different parts of the world, and draws some of the top scientists in this sphere of chemistry. Applications presented revolve around converting solar energy to electricity and/or fuels; new materials for luminescent flat panel displays; and pharmaceuticals activated when exposed to light.

Turlington and Wagenknecht presented research on new molecules for use in solar cells. Says Wagenknecht, “Present day solar cell technology relies on silicon based materials, whose production cost is still fairly expensive. A competing technology is the dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC) where a specialized dye initiates the conversion of sunlight to electricity.” Wagenknecht explains the best dyes for DSSCs use compounds made from ruthenium, an expensive and rare metal. “We are developing and studying dyes made from cheap, earth-abundant materials,” he adds.

Turlington, who had never before traveled out of the U.S. says, “I never thought that I would have been given this opportunity because of my chemistry major.” Besides networking with some of the top photochemists from all over the world, Turlington was struck by the flurry of ideas generated at the conference. “The chemistry never stopped … even at the end of the day after the talks, participants continued to come up with and discuss ideas for projects. The experience helped me realize that the best chemistry never occurs in isolation, but within a community,” he says.

At the end of the five-day conference, Wagenknecht and Turlington tacked on two days to explore Kraków. They visited Schindler’s enamel factory (made famous in the film Schindler’s List), the Jewish history museum in the 15th century Old Synagogue, the Wieliczka Salt Mine (built in the 13th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and hiked the alpine mountains bordering Poland and Slovakia.

But Wagenknecht and Turlington came away with more than a sense of accomplishment, new ideas, and memories of Kraków. “Our research generated international interest, with people from England and New Zealand talking to us about possible collaborative efforts,” says Wagenknecht.

See related story here. For more information, contact Paul Wagenknecht, Herman N. Hipp Professor of Chemistry at 864.294.2905, or paul.wagenknecht@furman.edu.

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