What we do...
Welcome to the Electrochemical Engineering group website!
We conceive, model, design, fabricate, characterise the performance, control and optimise electrochemical reactors and processes that convert electrical energy into chemical energy, as in electrolysers, and vice versa, as in fuel cells and batteries.
Such electrochemical processes offer elegant, environmentally-benign, energy-efficient and sustainable engineering solutions, inter alia for energy conversion and storage, production e.g. of chlorine, (sodium) hydroxide and many metals, and for resource recovery from industrial effluents and wastes. The required chemical change(s) are effected by oxidation reactions (- e-s) at anodes and reduction reactions (+ e-s) at cathodes; hence, stability under operational conditions of those electronically-conducting electrodes in contact with ionically-conducting electrolyte is critical.
As an alternative to electrical energy inputs, solar energy harvesting and utilisation in photo-electrochemical reactors is also being developed, e.g. for splitting water or hydrogen sulfide, producing hydrogen for subsequent oxidation in fuel cells. Such systems enable renewable energy storage, for managing intermittencies of wind and solar power sources, smoothing the dynamics of power demands, better balancing the latter with power supplies, and decarbonising power sources, especially for electric and hybrid vehicles. Although photovoltaics coupled to electrolysers can achieve this, they are not yet economic for grid-scale deployment, though costs of photovoltaics continue to decrease with time. The feasibility was first demonstrated in the 1970s of telescoping together the functions of photon-to-electron conversion and electrolyser into a single device, though the required photon-absorbing semiconductor(s) have yet to achieve acceptable combinations of being: stable, robust, energy-efficient, cheap, and capable of facile fabrication from abundant reactants by easily scalable processes. Deployment over areas of ca. 105 km2 would be required, were this the sole technology to meet global power demands presently of ca. 16 TW, predicted to double by 2050.