- Adsorption and porous materials
- Gas Storage and Separations
- Hydrogen technologies
- Materials for energy applications
Research focusses on applications of porous materials in gas storage, energy conversion and separation of gases. Major areas of research are synthesis and characterisation of novel two-dimensional porous materials (MXenes) and their application in energy storage, conversion and air purification; hydrogen and methane storage in highly porous materials; membranes for air purification; and microwave-induced plasma gasification.
MXenes are new two-dimensional materials synthesised from precursor MAX phases, which are carbide or nitride materials with early transition metals and 13 or 14 group elements.
We have developed a method to create porous MXenes which involves the use of pillars to enlarge the interlayer spacings, resulting in materials with increased surface areas and tuneable pore sizes. Using this method, we have obtained some of the highest surface areas seen in MXene materials and some of the largest interlayer distances observed for any 2D material.
We are testing these materials for applications in hybrid capacitors, especially Li, Na and Zn-ion capacitors, in fuel cells and in alkaline electrolysers. We have also used MXenes as support materials for photocatalysts in VOC degradation, and we are investigating possible applications of MXenes in gas separations.
2. Porous materials for gas storage and separations
The group is researching porous materials for gas storage and separations. Main areas of research are porous materials and membranes for air and hydrogen purification, and hydrogen and methane storage in porous materials.
Research in this area is diverse and looks at a range of tools and methods to study the adsorption of gases in porous materials. Research areas include the development of models to analyse supercritical adsorption, with implications in the calculations of the enthalpies of adsorption and on the adsorption kinetics. Highlights of the work include the development of theoretical models to analyse supercritical adsorption on highly porous materials, such as activated carbons and metal-organic frameworks, and the experimental verification of a highly densified phase of hydrogen adsorbed on activated carbon, with features that are commensurate with solid hydrogen.
Recent projects involve the use of porous materials for gas separations, including in methods and materials for air and hydrogen purification. This includes a PhD project on functionalisation of membranes for VOC degradation with Smart Separations Ltd, and a 3-year KTP project with NanoSUN to investigate porous materials to remove contaminants from hydrogen streams, so that the pure gas can be used in fuel cells.
3. Plasma gasification
Plasma gasification is a thermal process for the recovery of energy from waste, which converts organic matter to energy-rich synthetic gases. Together with Stopford Energy and Environment, we are researching microwave-induced plasma gasification and looking at the potential for the syngas generated through this process to be used for efficient energy conversion in a solid oxide fuel cell.
Microwave-induced plasma can be generated by focussing electromagnetic waves on a passing gas, which turns it into a plasma and has the advantage of generating a high-quality syngas with high efficiencies. In a recently funded Innovate UK project, we looked into ways of optimising the efficiencies and economics of the process and have developed novel plasma processing methods that generate plasmas using CO2 and H2O as the working gases.