Current Projects

Sustainable Free-Standing Electrodes for Advanced Flow Batteries

Rhodri Jervis, Maria Crespo Ribadeneyra, Ana Belen Jorge

Redox flow batteries represent a remarkable low cost and durable alternative for grid-scale energy storage. They often employ carbon felts or papers as the electrodes, but the activity towards the redox reactions are often poor, leading to low operating power densities. Additionally, the complex flow characteristics of the electrodes are often not well understood. This project will synthesise novel electrode structures from sustainable carbon sources via electrospinning, which will allow control of physical characteristics such as porosity, surface area and fibre size, but also to incorporate chemical species that help enhance the kinetics of the redox processes. Advanced x-ray imaging will provide a unique insight into the microstructural properties of the electrodes, and electrochemical testing in a full flow battery system will help identify new materials that will lead to improved flow battery performance and durability. The project will take advantage of already existing expertise and equipment at UCL and QMUL and will look to provide a proof of concept as a springboard for further funding and research. The rapid feedback of characterisation into the synthesis of the electrodes will allow expedited identification of desirable chemical and structural properties for the next generation of flow batteries.

Figure 1. XCT electrospun fibres showing the 3D reconstruction (left), virtual slice (middle) and concentration profile modelling using the extracted structure.

Bifunctional electrocatalysts for OER and ORR prepared by electrospinning

Szymon Doszczeczko, Magda Titirici, A. Belen Jorge

The search for green alternative sources of energy is of great importance. To battle increasing global warming created by the use of fossil fuels, and to meet the UK’s 2050 climate change targets, new alternative technologies must be developed. Some of these include fuel cells, solar cells, batteries, supercapacitors and water electrolysers. Not only technologies, but research in new materials is equally crucial. Our group focuses in developing new nanostructures, composite and hybrid materials that can replace currently employed noble metals. Oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) are key processes taking place in most of these devices, and are also focus of our studies. Not much research has been done to understand the effect of nanostructuring, hybridisation between various electrochemically active materials and understanding the structure-property relationships to allow an improved performance. Design and synthesis of new transition metal oxide perovskites/ N-doped C for OER and ORR catalysis using electrospinning.

Use of quantum dots to improve the performance of photo-anodes in solar conversion devices

Han Meng, Magda Titirici, A. Belen Jorge

Synthesis and use of QDs to improve the performance of photoanodes in solar conversion devices, i.e. photo-fuel cells, photoelectrochemical cells.

The Application of Functionalized Cellulose-based Papers in Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Devices

Dina Ibrahim Abou El Amaiem, Paul Shearing, Dan J L Brett, A. Belen Jorge, Magda Titirici

With rapid development of the global economy, increasing environmental pollution and depletion of fossil fuels, there is a vital need for sustainable sources of energy as well as technologies allied with energy conversion and storage. Among many application fields, some of the most practical technologies for electrochemical energy conversion and storage are fuel cells, batteries and supercapacitors. Recently, these devices have attracted significant attention, each with recognized advantages. Driven by this need and the promise of the technology, significant progress of these devices has taken place.

One of the challenges of developing these technologies is the use of low cost and readily available materials that possess complex requirements of different ap To overcome obstacles of high costs of raw materials and avoid usage of depleting sources, biocarbon materials are believed to lead the next generation of many industries due to their abundance, electrical conductivity, low cost and high specific surface area. Cellulose has eco-friendly attributes that are feasible to replace man-made fibers. Cellulose-based nanocomposites are being reinforced recently to make environmental-friendly products including lithium-ion batteries, electrode materials for supercapacitors and catalyst support in different electrochemical devices. Carbonization of cellulose yields carbons, including activated carbon and graphite fibers. The process briefly comprises of introducing the fibers in an inert atmosphere, preheating the fibers, treating them up to a certain temperature at which they carbonize and finally cooling the residues.

Microbial fuel cells for energy generation. Anaerobes are a unique class of organisms, they were able to survive the heavy bombardment of the Archean period by reducing various inorganic compounds to support their metabolism and drive respiration in the early Earth’s oxygen poor environment. Of all the bacteria that evolved during this period, some of the most interesting ones were the exoelectrogens, which were able to transfer electrons using extracellular routes to a chemical that is not necessarily the immediate electron acceptor. This property allows them to function in microbial fuel cells, a sustainable technology that is being developed for simultaneous wastewater treatment and electrical power generation. There are still many limitations to overcome before microbial fuel cells can be implemented in real applications and fundamental knowledge of the biological processes behind the extra-cellular electron transfer mechanisms are still lacking. In this work, we will be presenting current research pertaining to Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. We also introduce the use of extreme conditions as a tool to investigate the mechanisms of biofilm formation and bacterial redox behavior of high pressure-adapted Shewanella oneidensis.

Green Carbon – Advanced Carbon Materials from Biowaste: Sustainable Pathways to Drive Innovative Green Technologies. H2020-MSCA-ITN-2016. The energy crisis, environmental pollution and global warming are serious problems that are of great concern throughout the world. Around 40% of the world’s energy consumption is dedicated to the production of materials and chemicals. Thus, there is a need to develop high-performance materials based on renewable resources, simpler to synthesise and cost effective. Carbon materials derived from renewable resources (e.g., biomass) are ideal candidates to meet these needs. The main objective of our proposed Innovative Training Network is to develop new scientific knowledge, capability, technology, and commercial products for biomass-derived carbons (BCs); thus impacting the way that Europe uses and innovates with sustainable carbon materials. This will be accomplished through outstanding research and training programmes for fourteen early-stage researchers (ESRs). Our proposed research programme is feasible given the varied expertise and knowledge of the academic and industrial participants. We expect that GreenCarbon will improve our ability to rationally design a range of functionalised BC-derived materials using different individual and synergistically coupled processes and expand their practical applications. Our research programme comprehensively covers all aspects from precursors (the nature of biomass) to processing (thermochemical conversion, porosity development, chemical functionalisation) and application (e.g., CO2 capture, heterogeneous catalysis and chemicals from biomass) enabling a unique design of engineered sustainable BC materials. At the same time, our training programme is designed with the aim to empower the ESRs through the provision of a comprehensive and coherent training package, which includes complementary competencies and knowledge in all the science, engineering and business skills so as to be capable of deploying new technologies within different environments both inside and outside of academia.