A Focus on our PhD Students -Ann Kathrin Koopmann


Ever since my studies in high school, I have been interested in the natural sciences, and particularly in chemistry. Thus, I decided to study Forensic Science at the University of Applied Sciences in Rheinbach , Germany, which comprises multifaceted subjects in the areas of chemistry, biology, material science, and law. During my Bachelor-thesis at the Robert-Gordon University in Scotland, I first encountered nanomaterials, prepared via the sol-gel process. In particular, my thesis dealt with the generation of a luminescence lanthanide complex and its incorporation into a silica nanoparticle matrix, which was surface-functionalised to function as a fingerprint powder.

For my masters’ studies, I decided to focus more on the chemistry side and hence started studying Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry at the University of Applied Sciences in Aalen, Germany. During my Master-degree studies, I had the chance to expand my knowledge in nanomaterials by participating in a small research project concerning amino-silane functionalised maghemite nanoparticles. As I really enjoyed working in this field, I completed a research semester at the Paris-Lodron University of Salzburg in the department of Chemistry and Physics of Materials. From this time on, staying in Salzburg felt like the right choice and hence I conduced the practical work of my Master thesis involving the synthesis and characterisation of hybrid aerogels made of tannin and silica in the group of Professor Dr Nicola Hüsing. Thereupon, I was fortunate to be able to start my PhD studies, in October 2019, in the same department. My dissertation explores the generation of porous materials made of the polyphenolic tree-extract tannin, which is a natural, low-cost waste product from the paper industry, on the way to a more sustainable alternative for various applications fields, such as renewable energies, absorbent and coating technology. Therefore, this research is well aligned with the EU’s sustainable product policy. More precisely, within this work, the synthesis-structuralproperties relationships of tannin-based aerogels are being explored, with a particular focus on the generation of aerogels by using a bio-based crosslinker and its carbon counterparts, as well as enhancing the gels’ functionalities by introducing inorganic moieties.

Overall, my academic career is evolving along a versatile and personally-fulfilling path and I consider myself fortunate to have ended up within the sol-gel community. Furthermore, I am glad that my studies rely on the use of sustainable precursor materials, and even more, I am happy to see that within the aerogel-community, many researchers nowadays focus on bio-based precursors. Hence, I am looking forward to the newest research targeting the issues of the climate crisis.