Description of field of research

There is an urgent and growing need to transition society to a more sustainable, clean energy sector. One of the key requirements for this transition is the conversion of renewable energy to chemical energy, for storage, transportation, and use. Power-to-X, offers a solution to this challenge, being the conversion of renewable electrons to a range of chemicals. Electrocatalysts, which drive chemical conversions through electrons, can be utilised to produce hydrogen, convert carbon dioxide to fuels and synthesise green ammonia among others. As such, the development of novel catalysts has been a focus of considerable research in recent decades.

There are many properties which dictate electrocatalytic performance, with the active surface area being shown to be a key factor in controlling activity. Typically, surface area is characterised through nitrogen adsorption/desorption isotherms, and electrochemical surface area measurements. However, these measurements are limited in their ability to provide an understanding of the material in their active form. As such, this project aims to develop a novel technique to understand the surface area of electrocatalysts using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), resulting in the development of structure-function relationships which can be applied across a broad range of electrocatalytic applications.

School

Chemical Engineering

Research Area

Clean energy, surface characterisation, electrochemistry

This is an interdisciplinary project which will be carried out in the Complex Fluids Group and PartCat research groups at UNSW. It will involve materials synthesis, evaluation and characterisation, including through Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). 

This project is anticipated to develop new tools to understand electrocatalysts. From this understanding, more active catalysts can be developed, along with a novel technique for characterising active surface area across a range of disciplines.