ITMO's Young Scientists Get Grants as Part of UMNIK Program

On September 29, ITMO University hosted the awards ceremony for the UMNIK grant of the Innovation Promotion Fund. Young scientists received grants in the fields of IT, medicine, materials science, hardware systems, and biotech. Among the awardees were four representatives of ITMO University. ITMO.NEWS learned about the new promising projects by the young scientists.

Sergei Movchan, St. Petersburg's Vice Governor, personally came to congratulate UMNIK program awardees.

"4,000 contestants entered this competition; only a 100 made it to the semi-finals; now there are 25 of you. This is not the first time I've had the pleasure of participating in such a ceremony. The important task of the nation's leadership and educational establishments is to make it so that everything that you've invented would be introduced in the nation's economy. All of that are part of today's reality, and you will have to live with it. Today, 25 new people have joined those who will teach, manage enterprises and invent new technologies for our future. I wish you all the best of luck."

Sergei Movchan

ITMO's Rector Vladimir Vasilyev also greeted the young scientists.

"The UMNIK program is a great success and the Innovation Promotion Fund does a lot to make it so that ideas that come to bright minds would be realized in products, technologies, and services that can further develop our innovative economy. What's most important is that the ideas you have should be implemented in order to benefit our people, our city and the country in general," shared ITMO's Rector.

Winners of the UMNIK grants

Among the 25 winners, four represent ITMO University. These young researchers discussed the projects they’ll be working on over the course of the next two years.

Alaudi Denisultanov, research associate at the International Laboratory Nano-Opto-Mechanics

The project is dedicated to developing transparent conductive metamaterials for sensor panels and thin-film solar batteries. In other words, the grant was given for developing a transparent electrode - a type of device used in modern smartphones, TV displays, and solar cells. The device transmits both light and electricity. In a smartphone display, there's a transparent film just behind the glass cover - it is essential for displaying the image. The image is formed using electricity, thus the material has to be transparent – explains the scientist. As of now, indium tin oxide (ITO) is commonly used for that purpose, but it is fragile, rare and expensive, which is why the scientific community is searching for an alternative. Using graphene is an option, as well, although it has worse conductivity than ITO. Lately, scientists have been experimenting with special metal nano-grids that have similar properties, but those are unstable - if used in solar cells, for instance, they can start melting. We propose the concept of a transparent electrode, which also features a light-harvesting coating for solar cells. Its structure is simple: there's a metal layer, perforated by means of lithography, and microballoons attached on top of it. The holes in the metal are really small, so the light can get in but not escape, which is most effective for solar cells. The device is quite simple, yet there are still issues with the setup - the microballoons have to fit the holes really well, or else the light won't get in.

Alaudi Denisultanov

Daniil Abrashin, Ph.D. student at ITMO's Department of Financial Management and Audit

My research is aimed at developing energy-efficient cooling systems. I work with Peltier elements; my idea is to create Peltier elements cured with fullerene and use this technology for computer cooling. Some time ago, a similar idea was researched at one of ITMO University's international laboratories (unfortunately, it is now defunct and I haven't had the chance to participate in it) which included specialists from the California Institute of Technology, Ioffe Institute, ITMO and several Turkish scientists; I’m currently reviewing their results, which I want to use as a basis for a practical device. This is what I received the grant for. Amongst my short-term objectives is conducting experiments and learning the efficiency rates of thermoelectrical units.

Daniil Abrashin

Natalya Khanjina, research associate at ITMO's Computer Technologies International Laboratory

I focus on pollen grain recognition using deep learning, which has many practical applications. For instance, it is important in helping people suffering from allergies and asthma. Nowadays, about 30% of the population suffers from different types of allergies; pollen grain is a major allergen, and it is important to warn them of its presence in a timely manner.

Natalya Khanjina

Apart from medicine, pollen recognition can be applied in other fields of human activity. For instance, there is a lot of research on using it in forensic science. By knowing the species and genus of pollen found at the crime scene, it is possible to define which area the perpetrator may have come from. In food science, pollen grain recognition can help assess the quality of honey - a program can identify the plants used for a particular batch of honey and determine its type.

The technology can also be used by paleontologists who study prehistoric flora and fauna, and even for discovering oil deposits.

Nikolai Smirnov, Ph.D. student at the Department of Information and Navigation Systems

My project focuses on developing software that solves the task of identifying errors in the performance of sensors. This software aims to help in designing systems that rely on sensors; we offer models of deviations that can be used to improve the systems' overall precision. As I study at the Department of Information and Navigation Systems, my project focuses on navigation systems (integrated navigation systems, for instance). Yet, the use of such a technology is not limited to this field only; in future, our software can be used in other fields such as car manufacturing or radio engineering, as well as for educational use.

Nikolai Smirnov

UMNIK is one of Russia's large-scale grant programs for young scientists working in the fields of IT, medicine, materials science, hardware systems, and biotech. The Innovation Promotion Fund supports UMNIK's most successful projects and provides additional grants for finalizing them. The grants will amount to 400 and 500 thousand rubles. UMNIK's award ceremony takes place in St. Petersburg twice a year.

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