In Profile: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman, PhD Student – Why CST is for me…

As the newest member of the ASTRI team, PhD student, Larissa Fedunik-Hofman tells us why she pursued a career in renewable energy and what it is about solar thermal that ‘lights her up’.

  • ASTRI is now team of over 100 researchers and more than 30 PhD students
  • The team draws together experts from across physics, chemistry and material science, as well as process, chemical and mechanical engineering to position Australia as a leader in Concentrating Solar Thermal technologies
  • Larissa joins the team to conduct an investigation into carbonate looping thermochemical energy storage systems


Q: What was it about ASTRI that attracted you to the project?

I was immediately attracted to ASTRI because I had developed a particular interest in solar thermal energy during Uni.

My undergraduate thesis was based on methods for improving the efficiency of solar thermal and geothermal power plants. The more research I did on solar thermal energy, the more I realised it could be a great renewable solution particularly well-suited to Australia’s sunny climate.

I saw the ASTRI project as an ideal chance to contribute to research into innovative renewable energy sources.

Q: Why do you think projects like ASTRI are important for Australia?

I believe that the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy is inevitable and the sooner we make research breakthroughs about how to deliver energy from renewables most efficiently, the better.

Some of ASTRI’s goals include making solar energy cheaper and more dispatchable through thermochemical energy storage: this research will help make Australia’s “renewable future” attainable.

Q: What attracted you to a career/study in solar chemistry? What are you hoping to achieve?

I don’t have a conventional background in solar chemistry: I actually studied mechanical engineering.

However, I was always interested in renewable energy, particularly the study of energy materials and how to increase the efficiency of renewable energy power plants. Through my research, I am hoping to propose an inexpensive solution for solar thermochemical energy storage which can compete with commercial methods and help lower the cost of electricity from solar energy.

Q: If you could address one misconception about solar energy or renewables in Australia – what would it be?

That solar thermal energy is only available during peak solar irradiation times during the day: energy storage methods mean the energy can be stored and dispatched to suit electricity demands.

Q: What advice would you give to high school students currently considering their future career?

Choose your career based on what you are passionate about, this will motivate you to persevere and excel in your chosen career. If you are passionate about renewable energy in its many forms, I would definitely encourage you to follow that career path, and this field of science will only continue to grow in the future.

Q: Where is your favourite place to ‘soak up some sunshine’ in Australia?

Ironically for someone working in solar energy, I react to sunlight much like a vampire does. However, I do love the beaches of the Whitsundays.