"My dream is that technology developed by me will be utilised by the global photovoltaic industry."
Energised by the sun
Who are you?
I’m Hele Savin, Assistant Professor and head of the Electron Physics Research Group at the Department of Micro- and Nanosciences. My group studies silicon-based solar cells, among other things.
When did you discover that you wanted to work in science?
I liked maths and physics in school – engineering disciplines were my thing. My dad is a Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) graduate and he works as a researcher. As a kid, I loved visiting him at work and was fascinated by the technical equipment they used. In 1996, I started at TKK majoring in microelectronics.
Why did you decide to focus specifically on solar energy?
Microelectronics conferences have in recent years attracted more and more solar energy researchers, as the materials and technology used by both fields of science are converging. I noticed that solar energy was associated with intriguing problems that are very similar to what I had earlier managed to solve in microelectronics.
How did you establish a network in the science community?
I’ve spent a year working abroad on two occasions. This was very motivating and helped in the creation of international networks. I worked at Berkeley during my post-graduate studies and at the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy after I received my PhD. Foreign institutions possess very advanced solar energy research instruments because they have been exploring the subject for a long time. I’ve done my best to draw knowledge and competence from abroad and introduce it here at Aalto as well. I’ve also brought some international researchers into my own group.
What's so fascinating about solar energy?
It’s already certain that solar power will be a big issue. It has enormous energy generation potential. I am, however, a scientist at root – solving the technical challenges associated with solar power intrigues me most of all.
What do you want to achieve as a researcher?
My dream is that technology developed by me will be utilised by the global photovoltaic industry. The ERC grant I just received will hopefully bring this dream closer to reality.
Text: Tea Kalska
Photo: Sarri Kukkonen
The original article has been published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 04. Title updated 2013.