Combining science and entertainment: PhD researcher wins science slam

March 15, 2017

With his presentation “Dissociation of two-particle excitations – or how to break up couples", Jens Wehner, physicist and doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) successfully participated in three different science slams in Mannheim, Wiesbaden and Bonn. On March 15, 2017, he performes at the international competition for science communication, Famelab, in Karlsruhe.
Comparing electron-hole pairs to male-female relationships shows how a bonding between two partners can be weakened. Zoom Image
Comparing electron-hole pairs to male-female relationships shows how a bonding between two partners can be weakened.

Explaining research subjects to a non-scientific audience in an entertaining and concise way, this is what the concept of science slams stands for. In a ten-minute presentation, the slammer introduces their science project to the audience – often supported by drawings, videos or pictures. Jens Wehner’s presentation was a huge success, as the audience gave him the most votes at the event in Mannheim, which took place in January 2016 and at the science slam one month later in Wiesbaden. On March 7, his performance in Bonn was equally well received and won the second prize.

In his slam, Wehner presents an analogy between his research on electron-hole pairs in solar cells and male-female relationships. This involves practical tips on how to best resolve relationships by splitting up the couple into two individuals – illustrated with examples from theoretical physics: when a light particle, also called photon, hits a solar cell and is absorbed, an electron-hole pair is formed. Particularly in the case of organic solar cells, mainly consisting of carbon, water and some nitrogen as well as oxygen, the pair binds very strongly and cannot be split in two by means of thermal energy. Only with the help of special molecules, called fullerene derivates, the pairs disunite again. Now the free electrons and holes migrate to the electrodes of the solar cell and thereby generate electricity. As a doctoral researcher at the MPI-P, Wehner investigates the movement of electron-hole pairs and how fullerenes cause the pairs to split up.

Jens Wehner at the science slam in Wiesbaden. Zoom Image
Jens Wehner at the science slam in Wiesbaden.

Next on Wehner’s list of events is the Famelab in Karlsruhe on March 15, 2017, where he will compete with other science slammers. Yet here the rules are differently, as he is not allowed to use slides to support his performance, which should not last more than three minutes. A jury chooses the winner who is entitled to a prize money and also gets to participate in the finals of the German Famelab in Bielefeld.

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