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The University of Southampton

Electrochemical engineer awarded prestigious Schwäbisch Gmünd Prize for Young Scientists

Published: 27 May 2019
Dr Luis Fernando Arenas
Dr Luis Fernando Arenas

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Luis Fernando Arenas has been named the winner of the 2019 Schwäbisch Gmünd Prize for Young Scientists for his advances in the field of electrochemical science at the University of Southampton.

He becomes only the third recipient of the European Academy of Surface Technology (east) prize which recognises originality, creativity and excellence in its field.

Luis’ research has focused on the development of advanced porous electrodes for electrochemical flow reactors, with a particular aim to improve redox flow batteries and industrial processes which depend on the electrochemistry of the element cerium.

“When I arrived in Southampton in 2013, I was very excited to start work on a project which seemed tailored to my personal scientific interests,” Luis says. “The experience, both during and after my PhD, has surpassed my expectations and I am honoured to have been recognised with this prize. I feel a great sense of responsibility to make the most of this opportunity.”

The scientific applications of Luis’ electrode research use titanium materials coated with the precious metal platinum. The project developed and prepared new electrodes with a much greater surface area and determined their performance using a non-conventional approach.

The research demonstrated that highly porous electrodes are capable of enhancing the charging rate of flow batteries and the productivity of chemical operations by orders of magnitude. The analysis of the coating then enabled the team to also better understand the optimal conditions in which to manufacture these electrodes.

“The outcome of this cerium research is bifold,” Luis explains. “First, we have been able to extend the notion of rigorous flow and mass transfer studies among the worldwide flow battery community. We are happy to see more attention being given to the engineering aspects of flow batteries, regardless of their particular chemistry. We think that this will help to increase their performance and reduce their cost.

“Second, we have shown some new opportunities for the application and analysis of surface coatings on porous electrodes of industrial relevance, including novel 3D-printed variations developed at Southampton.”

Luis will be presented his award and deliver an invited talk at the Electrochem 2019 east forum in Glasgow this August.

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