Irene Brunetti: Research
scattered throughout Europe

Irene Brunetti is a PhD student of KIT University for the HORATES project, she conducts research and carries out her work within the facilities of the iL.The Horates project is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN). This project trains the next generation of R&D innovators in hybrid and organic thermoelectrics and develop prototype energy harvesters, inspired by actual market demand. "Everyone has their own role within the project; my goal is to develop a prototype of an organic thermoelectric generator using large-scale techniques“ Irene said. The 15 young scientists meet every six months to discuss the current status, talk about the project and their own results. The last meeting took place in Milan in November. 


Researching on the premises of iL: Irene Brunetti is working on thermoelectronic electricity. Picture: InnovationLab

Practical work

Born in Italy, she studied electrical engineering in Pisa for her bachelor’s and master's degrees. She really enjoys the applied work and prefers to spend time in the laboratory. "At school, I liked physic, chemistry and all the scientific subjects”, So then she decided to study electrical engineering. Together with the KIT research group, she uses the iL facilities, such as the Clean Room, to conduct research.  At the moment, the organic devices are not giving sufficient power for a concrete application, but as the project also deals with a hybrid technology Irene is currently working also with inorganic materials. "I'm not a materials scientist, so it's a bit difficult for me to develop suitable materials from scratch," she says, but she is improving with the passing of time.

As she is the only one working on her project in Heidelberg at the InnovationLab, she collaborates with other research groups. Professor Uli Lemmer, Scientific Director of iL, has a thermoelectric PhD group at KIT with which Irene is in contact. She is also collaborating with Professor Martijn Kemerink, who is the coordinator and spokesperson for HORATES.

Lively exchange at the HORATES project

The HORATES project also involves a lively exchange of ideas. Although the researchers are spread all over Europe, exchange and collaboration are important in the project. As part of the program, each researcher must visit other institutions and collaborators in the project. . Six PhD students visited Irene in Heidelberg. 'Many PhD students from the project come to Heidelberg for researching and working in a company, since InnovationLab is one of the few companies in the project' reports Irene.  "The division of work is sometimes a little complicated: Although we are all working on the same big topic, we have different focuses. Sometimes it's difficult to find meaningful collaboration, especially considering the tight deadlines, the student who stayed the longest was here for only three months, but it's also nice and constructive to learn to collaborate in different areas.”

Irene Brunetti measuring a flexible organic thermoelectric generator that she produced as part of HORATES. Picture: InnovationLab

Some of the current visitors at iL are doing research with Irene, others are busy writing their thesis. Irene has also visited other locations. In Milan, she was able to characterize the organic devices she fabricated in the cleanroom of the InnovationLab, using advanced measurement tools that the InnovationLab does not possess. Meanwhile, in Barcelona, she collaborated on the development of an electronic interface that can be used with inorganic devices to step-up the output voltage.

On the home straight

The EU-funded project is currently in its final stages. Irene's three-year project comes to an end in May. She still has three months to complete her project. Unfortunately, she will not be able to complete it, she says. She hopes to be able to stay a little longer to write her thesis and carry out some final research. "That also depends a bit on Uli Lemmer," says Irene, as he is responsible for her doctoral thesis as her supervisor. When the project started, it was Wolfgang Kowalsky, but he retired.

And afterwards? Does Irene want to stay in research? "I don't think so, I like the idea of the research project with collaboration from many different people and fields, but I think I will look for a company at home, in Italy. But first I would like to finish my doctoral thesis and some scientific article," Irene said.


Hannah Gieser

Communications Department