EEHH: Hello Dr. Pistidda, you have been working in the field of materials science for around 20 years, most of the time at Helmholtz Center Hereon. And you also have an international background. Can you explain what brought you to Hamburg and how you came to work for this area?
Dr. Pistidda: I came to Hamburg in 2007 after finishing my studies in chemistry at the University of Sassari in Italy. After many years of hard work at the university, I wanted to do something I would feel proud of and that could help me put my knowledge at the service of others to improve their quality of life. For this reason, I started looking for the possibility of making my doctoral studies abroad, and I received a PhD position on hydrogen storage materials jointly at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and at the GKSS-Forschungszentrum Geesthacht (now Helmholtz Center Hereon) in the frame of the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) COSY.
EEHH: The Helmholtz Center Hereon is an internationally renowned research centre. What goals is Hereon pursuing? And What is the main research area?
Dr. Pistidda: The research conducted at the Helmholtz Zentrum Hereon aims to generate knowledge and technology for the protection of the environment and the enhancement of humankind's standard of living. These aims can also be found in the symbolic words behind the name of our center, "Hereon" which are "Helmholtz", "Resilience" and "Innovation. To accomplish the challenging tasks ahead of us, at Hereon experimental research, modeling/simulation, and artificial intelligence are brought together. By doing so, we create an interdisciplinary link between the fundamental scientific knowledge and real-world scenarios/applications. The three main research areas of our center are Earth, Environment and Matter.
EEHH: Hereon started a research cooperation on hydrogen-related technologies with Partners from Europe and South America. Can you elaborate on this project?
Dr. Pistidda: This is the European project "CO2 absorbing Materials Project- RISE (CO2MPRISE)" which aims at bringing together experts from the academic and non-academic sectors to develop new technologies in the CO2 capture and conversion field. CO2 capture and conversion represent some of the most important and fascinating challenges that the scientific community will face in the next 20 years, and they are considered key pillars of the EU's research and innovation funding program. In this project we worked together with partners from Italy, Spain, Greece, Chile and our main task is to find an inexpensive and robust hydride-based material that can help convert CO2 to hydrocarbons in the Fisher-Tropsch reaction.
EEHH: Is there any other project with international importance in the field of renewables that you are working on now?
Dr. Pistidda: We recently started an extremely interesting collaborative research project with the University of Otago in New Zealand. In this project, we will investigate the cost-effective generation of metal hydride materials for hydrogen storage purposes from New Zealand natural resources. The successful outcome of this project will help find new, abundant and cheap sources of iron and titanium for large scale production of hydrogen storage materials, and the knowledge generated and transferred in the framework of this project will support New Zealand in its journey toward a net-zero carbon economy via the widespread use of hydrogen. The cooperation also aims to establish a German-New Zealand Green H2 Center for research, networking, and outreach which will be physically located in Dunedin and supported by a New Zealand-wide research and industry consortium.
EEHH: Research means knowledge generation and innovation which will boost the economic and social development. How does Hereon transfer the expertise to the place where it is needed?
Dr. Pistidda: The researchers of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon gather scientific expertise in order to uncover answers and develop solutions for challenges within material, climate and coastal research. Because our motto is "Science creates benefits," one of Hereon's primary goals is to transfer these ideas and technologies to the societal and economic sectors.
The team “Innovations and Transfer" supports Hereon's innovative technologies from the research stage to the application stage by protecting and validating them. It also operates as a point of contact for all business enquiries involving joint ventures, contract research, and the utilization of patented technologies.
But the best way through which Hereon transfer expertise to the place where is needed is through people. At Hereon, scientists coming from all around the world receive excellent scientific training in all three thematic areas mentioned before.
EEHH: What is your personal vision for a sustainable world?
Dr. Pistidda: idea of a sustainable world is well described by one of the final statements of the report “Our Common Future” prepared by the “World Commission on Environment and Development” back in 1987: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This is, at the same time, a simple but extremely powerful message.
However, a sustainable world cannot be achieved without the contribution of all of us, and this requires a significant change of mentality. Our future cannot be delegated to politicians and entrepreneurs alone. In an effort to make my contribution in this direction, some years ago I joined the European Climate Pact Ambassadors community. The European Climate Pact is a Commission initiative to engage with different stakeholders and civil society with the aim of committing them to climate action and more sustainable behavior. As part of our role as Climate Pact ambassadors we are asked to:
- Reach out to people who are not yet involved in climate action but could play their part;
- Inform, inspire, engage and support climate action within our friends, family, at school, neighborhood.
- Lead by example in climate action and in environmental protection.
As you can see my work and my private interests go hand in hand.