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Postdoc Spotlight: Dr Jincan Zhang, Nanotechnologist

Dr Jincan Zhang’s work explores the practical applications of 2D materials and investigates their structure-performance relationships, particularly graphene, with a view to developing new methods to grow, transfer, and functionalise graphene for practical device application, especially in energy and electronics.

A Research Associate at Cambridge Graphene Centre, Department of Engineering , and a Research By-Fellow at Hughes Hall, Jincan has a degree in Materials Physics Chemistry and a PhD in Physics Chemistry. She talks to us about her background, work, and inspiration as well as her experience of Cambridge.

Shandong to Cambridge

“I am from Jining, Shandong Province, China, which is also the hometown of Confucius. I completed my undergraduate studies at Shandong University in 2014 and pursued a PhD in Physics Chemistry at Peking University, focusing on the controlled synthesis of superclean graphene and its applications. I worked as a project leader at the Beijing Graphene Institute before joining the Cambridge Graphene Centre in 2020.”

Jincan uses Raman spectroscopy (an analytical technique where scattered light is used to measure the vibrational energy modes of a sample) to measure single-layer graphene film on SiO2/Si substrate.

Each transition to a new study or work environment has served as a turning point, bringing forth new challenges, exposing Jincan to new cultures, and allowing her to be involved in new projects with inspiring researchers. She reflects “coming to the UK has been a challenge, particularly considering the language barrier and the difficulty in returning to China to visit family due to travel restrictions, but it has been worthwhile in terms of personal growth and professional opportunity.”

Being a woman in engineering

“As a woman in science, actually I have found Cambridge to be pretty inclusive – and enjoyable! Rather than having to confront any major obstacles I have noticed that equality is promoted and being appointed as a By-Fellow of Hughes Hall has opened up even more opportunities for me.”

Jincan’s current  research focuses on the controlled synthesis and application development of graphene materials, with a particular emphasis on chemical vapor deposition growth of high-quality graphene films on copper substrates and their mass production. She is involved in cleanroom-based activities including growth, transfer, and device fabrication of high-quality graphene films and have developed new transfer strategies in graphene applications.

Working with the chemical vapor deposition system to produce high-quality ‘thin film or wafer’ solid materials.

“My focus on wafer-scale integration of graphene devices with high carrier mobility and low sheet resistance – a critical step for industrialising graphene-based applications – is a key development.”

Jincan’s work on graphene has the potential to make a significant difference in various fields, including electronics, photonics, energy storage, bio-medical applications, and quantum technologies.

Making a difference

“My achievements include the preparation of suspended graphene films on commercial TEM grids, enabling high-resolution imaging in materials science, chemistry, and biology. Compared to commercial amorphous carbon films, graphene offers higher electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as greater mechanical strength which has led to improved imaging resolution and enhancing our ability to study and understand materials at a microscopic level.”

Graphene’s unique properties also make it suitable for cell culture applications. Its flat surface and biocompatibility make it an excellent substrate for growing cells. Jincan has developed strategies to grow super clean graphene, which exhibits exceptional characteristics such as low contact resistance, enhanced thermal conductivity, and high carrier mobility. Her part in the commercialisation of super clean graphene helped lead to the availability of high-performance graphene products, with multiple patents filed.

 “My aspiration is to pursue an academic career focused on impactful and groundbreaking research to make a tangible difference in the world by conducting high-calibre research with practical applications. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the challenges of implementing novel nanomaterials and developing innovative strategies for their synthesis and device fabrication. By pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding, I hope to leave a lasting legacy and contribute to the betterment of society.”

On Hughes Hall

“I am really honoured to be a part of Hughes Hall – it has been instrumental in my personal and professional development. The sense of community and support among the members is great and its international and multidisciplinary atmosphere means I can engage with scholars from many fields.”

“I’ve also appreciated social and networking opportunities such as the Formal Halls and other more informal events like the College Brunch to connect with all sorts of people from across the college.”

Jincan firmly believes that being part of Cambridge University can be transformational – and that Hughes Hall is an example of somewhere you can expand your academic circles and really create change, whilst having some fun along the way.

To find out more about Jincan’s research work, please visit her Google Scholar page.

To get in touch with Jincan about potential collaborations, please email: jz543@eng.cam.ac.uk.