Starting on April 6, all educational institutions switched to distance learning and with this change mandatory program components such as theses defences needed to adapt. Related to this, Nazarbayev University organized an online doctoral dissertation defences.
Aydar Kemelbay, a doctoral candidate at the NU School of Engineering and Digital Sciences successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on the topic “Synthesis and Integration of One-Dimensional and Two-Dimensional Materials for the Latest Nanoscale Instruments”.
– At Nazarbayev University, I started working immediately after graduating from the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich) in 2014. When the doctoral program was announced at the School of Engineering (now SEDS) in 2015, I was among the first cohort of PhD students. After a recent defence of the dissertation, I continue to work at Nazarbayev University under the guidance of Prof. Tikhonov from the School Sciences and Humanities (SSH).
Was it difficult to defend a dissertation online?
I had no difficulties with the online platform, but since I am most familiar with speaking to a live audience, I found it a bit strange to address “the computer screen”.
In your work, you explored issues related to improving the efficiency of modern electronic devices. How will such a result be achieved? Could you tell us more about this?
The main objective of my doctoral dissertation was to study the synthesis of the latest nanomaterials and the creation of electronic devices based on them. In particular, we are working on the production of transistors with a negative capacitance effect. A transistor is the main structural element in processors. In a modern smartphone, there are billions of nanoscale transistors on a chip measuring only 1 by 1 cm. Each of them consumes energy and also generates heat. In total, it turns out huge numbers, especially when you consider the amount of electronics used in the world. The negative capacitance effect that we are working on will significantly increase the efficiency of transistors, while at the same time reducing their power consumption and heat dissipation. This effect was theoretically predicted and described by Lev Landau 80 years ago, however, until now, its experimental demonstration has remained impossible due to the lack of the necessary high-precision measuring equipment. Today, interest in this effect is even greater. It can be indirectly observed in various materials, and recently it was measured directly by two groups of scientists from the USA and Germany. As part of my dissertation, we synthesized materials for the implementation of transistors with a negative capacitance effect. At the next stage, we plan to test the materials obtained in real electronic devices.
In general, while working on the dissertation we published two articles on my research topic and received several grants to finance them. Including two grants from the US Department of Energy, which were allocated for our experiments at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (USA). Now we are transferring the experience of this laboratory to Nazarbayev University and actively participate in the creation of a nanotechnology laboratory and it’s equipping here.
Will your development help to speed up the work of our gadgets, computers?
Our development is one of many other works that advance the progress of science and technology by one step. Our specific developments might not on their own be included in such gadgets, but our results in combination with many other results, all work together to improve future gadgets and to create new electronics. Our main goal is that such electronics – mobile phones, computers, etc. – work much faster, but at the same time consume less energy.
What other research projects have you taken part in?
As part of the dissertation, we also worked on several other interesting projects. So, under the guidance of Dr Kaikanov (SSH), we conducted experiments on the recently launched INURA particle accelerator at NU. This accelerator allows one to irradiate materials and produce rapid heating. The temperature of the sample during irradiation increases at a rate of several billion degrees per second. This, of course, does not mean that it is possible to achieve such a high temperature, however, technologically relevant values, say 1000 degrees, can be achieved in a very short time – one ten millionths of a second. Using the possibility of ultrafast heating, we can achieve crystallization and other effects in nanomaterials deposited on substrates, which under normal conditions cannot be exposed to high temperatures, for example, polymers. Due to ultrafast heating, these materials do not have time to “feel” heat, but we manage to make other modifications to our physical properties that are necessary for us without degradation of the substrate. In the future, this technology can be used, for example, to create flexible, wearable electronics. Wearable electronics is an actively developing area. The simplest example of such electronics are smartwatches. However, today science is working on the creation of more complex devices, for example, sensors that 24/7 record vital indicators (pressure, heart rate, temperature) or sensors that notify about seizures, etc. For the convenience of wearing such devices, nanomaterials that read signals should be applied to polymers. The technologies developed at the accelerator at Nazarbayev University provide another tool for creating and modifying such nanomaterials.
While working on your dissertation, what was the biggest difficulty you faced? What about the biggest advantage?
The main difficulty was the lack of some equipment in the early years of operation. Today we were able to equip the laboratory with the necessary equipment and continue to improve the nanotechnological infrastructure together with other groups and units of Nazarbayev University.
As for the advantage – I believe that a strong and supportive scientific group is the key to the success of any work, and I was very lucky with this. Of course, the dissertation would not have been successful without the help of supervisors – Dr Tevye Kuykendall (Berkeley Lab), Prof. Alexander Tikhonov (NU), Dr. Marat Kaikanov (NU). And I express my deep gratitude to them. I also want to thank my family for their boundless support over the years.
Can you share your future plans?
In the future, I plan to continue my current research as well as start new projects. We already have some ideas and preliminary results in this regard. The accelerator, working with new scientific facilities provides interesting new ideas, exciting opportunities, and potential projects that we would like to successfully implement in the future.
What advice can you give to doctoral students just starting their studies?
Use a systematic approach to research, especially if it is an experimental work. You need to quickly learn how to determine which experiments are most important and which are less because you always want to try everything, but there is not enough time.