Dr. Mateusz Wnukowski is a Polish scientific researcher from Wroclaw University of Science and Technology. He studies the plasma process in gases, focusing on fuel conversion. He came to work with Assoc. Prof. Pavel Dvořák from the research group Plasma Diagnostics and Modelling of the Department of Plasma Physics and Technology and CEPLANT. During his three-month stay, he will use laser diagnostic equipment to learn Two-Photon Absorption Laser Induced Fluorescence (TALIF) and use it in his research topic.
Why did you decide to study plasma?
At university, I studied chemical technology. I liked chemistry. Back then, I did not like physics so much. Later, I came across plasma applications, which I found interesting. Even after my master’s, I wasn’t even interested in acquiring a PhD. But it was a difficult time, and I could not find a job. I was offered a job at the university to study gas conversion and production for power engineering applications. From then on, I delved into physics more and more deeply. My focus switched from chemistry through engineering to plasma physics. But I still stay close to applications.
Why did you choose to come to Brno?
I read scientific articles from Assoc. Prof. Pavel Dvořák during my research. A few years back, we came in contact and discussed the possibility of laser plasma diagnostics for our setup back in Poland. We even wrote a project proposal, but it was unsuccessful. This year, I came to Brno to conduct the experiments that we discussed and planned.
The abroad exchange is very profitable. Not only can I meet new people and get professional contacts. It will also give me new experiences. We plan to do new experiments that will be beneficial to my research. I will gain new skills in laser plasma diagnostics for my research. I will learn more about plasma physics and plasma diagnostics and apply it to specific experiments.
Back in Wroclaw labs, we work with much bigger setups that are much harder to control. We also primarily work only with Optical emission spectroscopy (OES). However, the OES gives us limited opportunities to study fuel gas conversion. Laser diagnostics offers me more tools for understanding the processes of gas conversion.
What is your research on gas conversion about?
We use microwave plasma to clean syngas, decompose methane to valuable hydrogen and light olefins, and synthesis nitrogen oxides from air that might be used for nitric acid production. The aim is to make these processes more effective and environmentally friendly and cleaner as an alternative to the presently used technologies.
What is the most interesting thing in your research for you?
There is always something new. Whatever you do, you will receive exciting results. Very often, new and unexpected results come up along the way. They fuel new ideas. It pushes you forward, and you will learn something new from it. For example, during syngas cleaning we discovered that methane is easily decomposed with the addition of hydrogen, which gives me a lot of new ideas. I must plan new experiments to prove those ideas. Science is, to be simply said, fun.
It is also interesting that I previously considered physics and plasma hard to understand. But now, I am still amazed that in physics, you always know what you are doing, and you understand each step along the way. On the other hand, combustion looks easy. It is a common thing. But if you focus on studying the process itself, it is all about assumptions and challenging to understand in detail.