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The Energy Futures Lab Lecture Series: Professor Alexander Cowan

Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals from Sunlight – Solar to X

Renewable resources such as solar offer a way to decarbonise electricity production but they need to be coupled to suitable energy storage systems to address the intermittency of supply. The production of high energy, storable molecules such as hydrogen, ammonia and carbon-based fuels from abundant resources including water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide in process driven by sunlight provides a potential pathway to both sustainable fuels and chemicals.

There are many different technological pathways by which a solar-driven sustainable fuels and chemicals industry could be delivered and in this presentation I will introduce the general concept of Solar to X and provide an overview of the field with examples from both our own recent work at the University of Liverpool and more widely others in the UK. We will then focus on the development of catalysts and devices for syngas production from carbon dioxide, which is being carried out as part of the UKRI Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical economy program.

This lecture will run from 18:00 – 19:00 with a Q&A session at the end chaired by Dr Andreas Kafizas, Energy Futures Lab’s Research Theme Lead for Sustainable Fuels. The lecture will be followed by a networking drinks reception.


Professor Alex Cowan obtained his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Nottingham (2007) and following postdoctoral position at Nottingham developing catalysts for the reduction of carbon dioxide he moved to Imperial College London to study photoelectrochemical water splitting with Prof. David Klug and Prof James Durrant. In October 2012 he joined the department of Chemistry and the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at Liverpool University initially as a Lecturer and he was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2015, Reader in 2017 and Professor in 2019. Alex is director of the UK Solar Fuels Network ( and he leads the technology development program of the UKRI Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical economy (

Alex leads an active research group that develops and studies catalysts for the sustainable production of fuels. Current interests include the development of electrolyzers for carbon dioxide reduction in acids and the study of both inorganic and organic materials, for solar fuels production.


About Energy Futures Lab

Energy Futures Lab is one of seven Global Institutes at Imperial College London. The institute was established to address global energy challenges by identifying and leading new opportunities to serve industry, government and society at large through high quality research, evidence and advocacy for positive change. The institute aims to promote energy innovation and advance systemic solutions for a sustainable energy future by bringing together the science, engineering and policy expertise at Imperial and fostering collaboration with a wide variety of external partners.

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