Project 1: New molecular catalysts for water splitting based on photo-system II (PSII)
Lead supervisor: Prof Carl Redshaw
The reversible oxidation of water to produce oxygen and protons is a deceptively simple reaction. Biologically, this four-electron/four-proton process is catalysed by PSII, the active site is known as oxygen-evolving complex (OEC). Abiologically, low-temperature fuel cell technology remains firmly based upon platinum metal or its alloys. However, platinum is both expensive and rare. Designing new materials for oxygen/water interconversion based on the abundant elements found in the OEC is attractive. Most Mn-O chemistry has been elucidated, but catalytic systems prove elusive. We propose the synthesis and exploration of calixarene-based frameworks to support metallo-oxo cluster systems for reversible water oxidation as a functioning analogue of the natural active site which catalyses this process. We will explore the assembly of manganese and related cluster cores within a ligating framework via three routes: (a) templating using inorganic structures, (b) using organic templates, (c) a self-assembly approach using water soluble, carboxylate functionalised calixarenes.
Project 2: Innovative hydrogen storage materials for a net zero society
Lead supervisor: Prof Georg Mehl
High porosity organic soft matter systems incorporating rigid-plate aromatic and flexible hydrocarbon moieties will be designed containing organometallic functionalities for enhanced hydrogen binding. Hierarchical structures and porosity will be designed-in to enhance hydrogen flow and control storage-release cycles. The project will interface strongly with the catalysis project and will be intimately connected with the ultrasound-enhanced reliable control of the hydrogen storage and release cycles project. The focus is on pore size and structure (e.g. fractal, distinct registers) and on ultrasound mediated hydrogen release. Experimental results and theoretical data will be incorporated through modelling, and using machine learning collaborating with the specific projects to advance research progress but also to enrich the research strategy. Student secondment to the complementary teams (Catalysis, Engineering, Computing (Projects 1,3)) to learn and to apply relevant cross disciplinary skills and modes of thinking will produce an expert with cutting edge advanced skills sets.
Project 3: Modelling and data-driven optimisation for developing hydrogen production and storage materials and technologies
Lead supervisor: Dr Jie Yang
Many fundamental and dynamic issues in the chemical and physical processes in Projects 1 to 5 have not been fully understood. To gain a more quantitative perspective and assist in the optimisation of these processes, a multiphysics modelling and simulation study will be carried out. The focus is to study the energetic cavitation bubbles interaction with the different chemical species in the catalysis process for enhancing chemical reactions, as well as how the dynamic bubbles can enhance the formation of porosity in the metal-organic materials from the liquid state to solid state. This project will develop models to better understand the underlying physics that underpin the optimisation of electrolysis processes for maximising hydrogen production as well as investigate the mechanisms involved in different hydrogen storage options. The models will be tested and validated using a combination of theoretical and experimental results derived from Projects 1,2 and 4.
Project 4: Selection of hydrogen production and storage options according to industrial application
Lead supervisor: Dr Carolina Font Palma
Hydrogen is a key enabling commodity for the replacement of fossil fuels used for power, heat, storage and transport. Nevertheless, there is a wide gap between the variety of hydrogen production technology options investigated and the scale and applications where hydrogen will make the best candidate fuel. To take advantage of a wider spectrum of solutions for green and blue hydrogen production, a structured procedure is proposed in this work for the selection of hydrogen production and storage pathways (including the routes in Projects 1 and 2) and their industrial use or dispatchable power use. The algorithms to be developed will provide a first screening and ranking of options to lead to the selection of scenarios to match hydrogen production and storage routes based on technical, economic and environmental benefits. Findings will inform the other four projects.
Project 5: Development of ultrasound-enhanced low-cost technologies for manufacturing atmospheric hydrogen storage materials
Lead supervisor: Prof Jiawei Mi
Ultrasonic cavitation is a very efficient and effective way in enhancing chemical reactions, element mixing and catalysis processes. It is also a very efficient process for producing bubbles in a liquid media (tens of thousands in seconds), hence for making porous materials. In this project, we will add ultrasound waves into the two processes defined in Projects 1 and 2, exploring the optimal ultrasound conditions to maximise the efficiency of the catalysis processes for producing hydrogen and the best conditions for producing the porous materials for hydrogen storage. The aim is to maximise the capability for hydrogen production and storage. The project will also intimately link to Project 3 for the model validation, calibration and optimisation purposes. Prof Mi has a series of the state-of-the art ultrasound materials processing facilities and access to the most advanced X-ray imaging and diffraction capability in the world for supporting the research.