Professor Ifan Stephens

Join us for the inaugural lecture of Professor Ifan Stephens on Wednesday 1 May, organised by the Department of Materials. Celebrate Ifan’s success and hear about his fascinating and inspiring scientific journey.

The lecture will be held in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building (SAF), room G34.

Welcome drinks will be held at 5pm in SAF, CL1 & G67 and there will be a drinks reception after the lecture in SAF CL1.

Title: Chasing volcanoes: catalysing our way to a more sustainable future

Abstract: My research sits at the crossroads between catalysis and electrochemistry.

A catalyst enables a reaction to take place at a rate that is faster than otherwise possible. Since the early 20th century, solid catalyst materials have shaped our modern society: they provide us with fuels we need for heat and transportation and the chemicals that allow us to live without famine. Even so, catalysts are currently geared to exploit fossil resources, leading to colossal emissions, with a deleterious effect on our environment.

Electrochemistry deals with the relations between chemical and electrical phenomena. Electrochemistry is everywhere, from the batteries that power our smartphones to the electrolysers that enable the industrial production of aluminium and chlorine.  With the advent of inexpensive electricity from wind and solar, we can directly couple electrochemical devices to renewable energy sources. As such, electrochemistry will be crucial on our journey to a future society free of fossil fuels.

Batteries are already making huge inroads towards the electrification of automotive vehicles. The electrochemical production of our most important chemicals, such as hydrogen, ammonia and ethylene, provides a highly attractive pathway to the decarbonisation of aviation, shipping, the polymer industry and agriculture.

It turns out that the catalyst at the electrodes, the electrocatalyst, controls the efficiency of electrochemical devices. The large scale uptake of electrochemistry for energy and chemicals – which constitute some of our most polluting sectors – relies on improvements to the performance of the catalyst materials. The beauty of electrocatalysis as a science is that it allows us to leverage atomic-scale fundamental insight to make an impact to the big challenges facing humanity.

In my lecture, I will peruse upon the lessons learnt – both on a personal and scientific level –  over the past two decades researching electrocatalysis. I will present my vision for how electrocatalysis – and more broadly electrochemistry at large – will play a key role in the energy transition.


Getting here