Official website of Saint Petersburg State University.
  1. Participants in the ‘SPbU Start-up – 2020’ contest – the Sulphur Energy team – have found a way to make lithium-sulphur batteries more durable. Thanks to the development, they will become more efficient than the well-known lithium-ion energy storage batteries. They can be introduced into mass production.

    startup batarei

    Lithium-sulphur batteries were created back in 2004, and they made a breakthrough in the energy sector. Their key difference from their predecessors is that sulphur is part of the cathode. It makes it possible to double the storage battery capacity compared to lithium-ion, as well as maintain it in a working condition at temperatures down to minus 40 ̊C. This is important, for example, for unmanned aerial vehicles looking for minerals in the Arctic. Additionally, sulphur is an affordable raw material that reduces the final cost of the product. However, such batteries are not yet available commercially.

    As well as having their advantages, lithium-sulphur batteries have significant drawbacks. The main one is the gradual washing out of sulphur from the cathode, which leads to a rapid decrease in battery capacity. Therefore, its service life is very limited and two times inferior to lithium-ion. The goal of our project is to solve this problem, to make the lithium-sulphur battery work for as long as the lithium-ion one.

    Valentin Ershov, the captain of the team, a master’s student in the ‘Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies’ programme

    To achieve this, the students invented a special film – a separator, which protects the cathode from sulphur flowing out of it. It consists of aluminium oxide – a compound with which sulphur does not react, so that it cannot leave the cathode. At the same time, the film allows lithium to pass into the electrolyte – a substance that conducts an electric current and is located between the cathode and anode – and vice versa, without interfering with the battery’s performance. Such a battery will have 70–80% more capacity than a lithium-ion one, and be no less durable.

    However, the students are not the only ones trying to extend the life of lithium-sulphur batteries. Similar developments are being carried out by Samsung and the British company Oxis Energy. Also, research is being conducted in scientific institutions in Germany. However, according to the participants, these enterprises will not sell their advanced technologies. Additionally, they are not applicable everywhere in Russia. For example, batteries for the military industry are best made domestically so as not to depend on external supplies that could suddenly stop.

    We are planning to open a small production company and sell products to enterprises. I would like to start with the mining industry and make batteries for unmanned aerial vehicles operating in severe weather conditions. Then we will expand the circle of our customers.

    Valentin Ershov, the captain of the team, a master’s student in the ‘Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies’ programme

    Now the students are testing the technology, determining the optimal film thickness, and checking the battery capacity in different conditions. In the final of the ‘SPbU Start-up – 2020’ contest, the participants will demonstrate its prototype.

    The team consists of five people. German Sirotkin (‘Chemistry’) is responsible for the synthesis of materials and chemical design. Vadim Kozlov (‘Physics’) performs engineering tasks in the assembly and testing of batteries. Mikhail Nikolaev (‘Radiophysics’) is engaged in scaling technology into production. Vladislav Peskin (‘Management’) is in charge of the economic component and marketing promotion of the project. Valentin Ershov (‘Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies’) deals with the electrochemical part of the project and coordinates the work in the team. The research supervisor is Oleg Levin, an associate professor of St Petersburg University and Doctor of Chemistry.

  2. This academic programme is unique in that it combines harmoniously a comprehensive study of the history of Russia with the extensive use of the highest standards of world historical studies.

    The programme ‘History of Russian Civilization’ is aimed at training specialists of a new generation who are freely oriented in different periods and aspects of the centuries-long history of Russian civilization.

    It is based on a combination of the ample research experience of the St Petersburg school of history and interest in the needs, topics, and methods of modern historiography. The views of employers are taken into account while developing professional competencies of future graduates.

    The programme immerses students in the worlds of source study, historiographic, and theoretical and empirical areas of comprehension of the more than thousand-year-old Russian history. Moreover, the history of Russia is interpreted widely, not only taking into account ‘our space’, that is, the territory of the former USSR. The comparative historical method, geopolitical analysis, and other trends of modern science are used. Students receive an idea of the place of Russian civilisation in the world, its features, similarities and differences from other countries and civilisations.

    This is a full-time programme, and there will be scholarship and paid tuition places. You will find admission policies here.

    The programme makes it possible to build a scenario of interdisciplinary interaction, to understand modern historiography, and competently acquire its fundamental tools. Academic courses are taught by: leading scholars; prize winners in the field of historical science; and creators of schools of thought for studying various periods and challenges of Russian history.

    If desired, master’s students can take part in practical activities, and academic projects. They also have an opportunity to start an international academic career. Among the foreign partner universities are: New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria); the University of Bergen (Norway); and the University of Wrocław (Poland).

    There are ample opportunities for graduates to develop in the field of historical sciences. The acquired skills will make it possible for them to be engaged in research, teaching, managerial, cultural and educational, or analytical activities.

  3. As part of the ’SPbU Start-up - 2020’ contest, the Cloudprints team has developed a web platform to make 3D printing an ever more popular option in Russia. Thanks to this platform, ordinary users who have no technical education and no in-house device for 3D printing will be able to create high-quality custom-made products.

    2019 12 19 start up 19

    ‘3D printing opens up unique opportunities for people. It is not surprising that there are a lot of enthusiasts who are passionate about it. First of all, people are attracted by the fact that literally from nothing, from a mass of plastic, in two hours you can create anything. Today 3D printing is in demand among designers, architects and scientists. Unfortunately, the access to it is often problematic,’ said Artem Ponomarenko, second-year student of ‘Applied Mathematics and Informatics’ and the Cloudprints team-leader.

    Today, there are three ways to print a custom-made product, for example, an original smartphone case. The first is to purchase your own 3D-printer, which is expensive and may be difficult to use. The second option is to turn to a 3D printing studio. It is might entail a long process of coordination and processing of the order, as well as high production costs. The third way is to search for a private craftsman. However, you might have to spend some time on it. Moreover, there are no guarantees for the consumer that the quality will be satisfactory.

    Cloudprints team project is expected to solve this problem. With the cloud aggregator, even inexperienced users will be able to upload their model, get it in a queue, and receive the product in a convenient way: by mail or by courier delivery.

    The service is expected to benefit owners of 3D printers as well. According to Artem Ponomarenko, there are more than 23,000 3D printers in Russia and one of the most common problems of device owners is idle time: ‘People who are in the 3D printing business are enthusiasts, and are only too happy to print something for their friends. There are even printing societies in Russia today. I believe that many of them would be happy to receive commercial orders.’

    2019 12 19 start up 19

    At present, the system is capable of working only with ready-made three-dimensional digital models. In the future, Cloudprints team plans to offer services in creating new projects based on clients' drawings and requests. The young entrepreneurs do not intend to be limited to only 3D printing. They are planning to provide services on laser and milling machines as part of the project development.

    The project has no competitors in Russia yet. There are similar sites abroad, but they have some serious limitations. For example, they do not allow to aggregate the printers of third-party users. Many of them do not deliver in Russia. Besides, such companies charge quite a high commission for their services.

    Artem Ponomarenko, Cloudprints team-leader, a second year student of Applied Mathematics and Informatics

    Cloudprints will pay particular attention to the quality control system. If the customer does not like the result of the work, he can report it. After that, a commission of randomly selected project users will consider the issue on behalf of both customers and performers. If the complaint turns out to be justified, the server will refund the money to the client and possibly impose penalties on the contractor.

    The Cloudprints team, headed by Artem Ponomarenko, includes other students of St Petersburg University: Nataliia Nikolaenko is in charge of business planning; Gleb Slepenkov specialises in distributed registries; Lev Tsatsorin is responsible for frontend development; and Ivan Balmaev is working on hardware.

    In the finals of the ‘SPbU Start-up - 2020’, Cloudprints team will present a new service with basic functions. The participants will show the system in action – from loading the draft to receiving the finished product. However, whatever the verdict of the jury, the students are going to look for investors to implement the project.

    ‘This contest can be compared to a 3D printing process: participants come up with ideas that evolve into a viable project in the course of their work. Once we have reached the final, the team and I attend additional start-up school classes that cover important economic topics. We have an economist in our ranks, but I think everyone will benefit from extra knowledge. After all, these are the issues that will come to the fore when the project develops,’ said Artem Ponomarenko.

  4. The Language Testing Centre of St Petersburg University was created in 1997 to deliver assessment tests of Russian as a foreign language. However, today the Russian language exam is just one of the centre’s areas of work. Dmitry Ptyushkin, Acting Director of the Language Testing Centre, spoke about the success the centre had achieved in the last five years.

    ‘Today, St Petersburg University performs tests of 25 languages. For example, the Proficiency test of Persian language has recently been held in our University for the first time outside Iran,’ said Dmitry Ptyushkin. No other organisation in Russia can deliver exams of so many languages.

    Until 2015, St Petersburg University had only 8 collaborating centres of language testing abroad. Today, there are 80 testing centres of Russian as a foreign language in 33 countries. Moreover, since 2018, St Petersburg University holds an Olympiad that is highly rated not only abroad, but also by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. During almost two years about 12,000 people from 130 countries took part in it.

    Since 2016, the testing centre has received the right to hold exams of many foreign languages. These include: the Cambridge Assessment Test of English; the Test of Proficiency in Korean; and the Hebrew Proficiency Test.

    In 2018 we became organisers of the Turkish proficiency exam; and signed an agreement to hold tests of 13 other European languages, including Hungarian, Czech, Romanian and Bulgarian.

    Dmitry Ptyushkin, Acting Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University

    ‘This year we have started delivering tests of the Japanese language. It is worth mentioning that previously this exam had been held in the Embassy of Japan, but they had never held exams in summer. We arranged this due to multiple requests from applicants. Now we continue working with Eastern languages: an agreement on Chinese proficiency test has been signed recently, and the first tests will be held in June and July, 2020. If before it was only possible to take a written exam in the University, now there will be the opportunity to test oral skills of Chinese,’ Dmitry Ptyushkin pointed out.

    The number of exams is constantly increasing. ‘Three years ago, there were only 2,000 people abroad who took the test of Russian as a foreign language, now there are 5,000 examinees. When we started delivering exams of the Korean language, the number of applicants was not more than 100 annually, while now we have 300-350 examinees a year,’ Dmitry Ptyushkin said.  

    The work of the centre is not limited to language exams. One of its projects is the ‘Online School of St Petersburg University’ in the Baltic Countries, Spain, Kazakhstan and Tadzhikistan. Also, there is a peer-to-peer pedagogical practice programme and online Russian language courses in Greece. These initiatives not only help popularise the University, but they also enhance the position of the Russian language worldwide.

  5. Research Fellows at the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology at St Petersburg University Dmitry Antipov and Mikhail Rayko have participated in genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. The viral RNA was extracted from a swab sample obtained from an infected resident of St Petersburg on 15 March. The complete genome sequence of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from a Russian patient has been sequenced by the researchers from the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza, St Petersburg.