Our group is currently working on a range of research projects, with many different collaborators, and generously supported a variety of funding bodies, such as: the European Research Council (ERC), the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and a host of industrial partners.
Please find more information on a selection of our current and recent grants below.
The Faraday Institution (2019-2025) - LiSTAR
The Lithium-Sulfur Technology Accelerator
To deliver fundamental changes in battery performance in the medium to long term, industry must look to chemistries beyond Li-ion. Of these, lithium-sulfur (Li-S) represents one of the most attractive technologies available. Compared with Li-ion batteries, Li-S cells store more energy per unit weight and can operate in a wider operating temperature range. They may also offer safety and cost improvements. Yet the widespread use of Li-S faces major hurdles, which stem from sulfur’s insulating nature, migration of discharge products leading to the loss of active material, and degradation of the metallic lithium anode. Scientists and engineers need to know more about how the system performs and degrades in order to overcome current limitations in the power density and lifespan of Li-S cells that could unlock their use.
The LiSTAr project is designed to address these challenges. The consortium will generate new knowledge, materials and engineering solutions, thanks to its dual focus on fundamental research at material and cell level, and an improved approach to system engineering. The project will address four key areas of research: cathodes; electrolytes; modelling platforms; and device engineering. In doing so, the LiSTAR consortium is seeking to enable rapid improvements in Li-S technologies, with the aim of securing the UK as the global hub for the research, development and deployment of this emergent technology.
The Kucernak Group will be involved in the WP1, developing carbon aerogels materials for Li-S batteries cathodes.
Collaboration between 7 UK Universities and 8 UK Industrial Partners.
UKRI (2021-2024) - IDRIC
- Grant Details (EPSRC, GoW)
- Grant Details (UKRI, GtR)
- IDRIC Website
- IDRIC at ICL (ICL, Energy Futures Lab)
- IDRIC MIP 7.2
IDRIC: The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre
IDRIC, the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre, is the focal point of the green transformation in the UK’s industrial heartlands. Powered by research and innovation and funded by UKRI, IDRIC develops innovative decarbonisation solutions at pace and scale in the places where it matters most.
The Kucernak Group’s role in this project is through MIP 7.2: Electrolysis for green hydrogen and co-produced chemicals at scale, where we investigate reducing the cost of green hydrogen by co-producing a second valuable chemical.
EPSRC (2020-2024) - PERP - A centre for Pulse Electron Paramagnetic Resonance spectroscopy
We propose to set up a new research facility at Imperial College London which employs a powerful technique called ulse Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, to identify and characterise such unpaired electrons (free radicals) and gain detailed insight into the structure and dynamics of paramagnetic compounds. The facility (PEPR) will therefore contribute to solving grand, societal challenges such as healthy aging, sustainable energy generation and storage, greener and more effective catalytic solutions for chemical manufacturing and developing a new generation of electronic devices.
PEPR will encompass state-of-the-art pulse EPR instrumentation and in partnership with University College London we will develop new instrumentation and methodology to push the boundaries of what is possible with EPR today and widen the applications of this already extremely versatile technique. We will do this by combining EPR spectroscopy with electrochemistry, a powerful method for investigating oxidation-reduction processes that often lie at the heart of systems with unpaired electrons and by enabling pulse EPR investigations of paramagnetic compounds that cannot be accumulated in sufficiently large quantities to be studied with current commercially-available instrumentation. PEPR will therefore bring new capabilities to the UK, build on the existing research strengths and infrastructure at Imperial College and engage new academic users and research centres across London, regionally and UK-wide.
H2020 (2020-2024) - FURTHER-FC
Funded by the (previously) FCH-JU / (now) Clean Hydrogen JU.
Further Understanding Related to Transport limitations at High current density towards future ElectRodes for Fuel Cells
PEMFC is the promising technology for automotive applications with a large deployment horizon by 2030. However, in view of extending their use to a broad range of customers, progress have to be done in terms of cost, performance and durability.
The FURTHER-FC project aims at understanding performance limitations due to the coupling between electrochemical and transport issues in the Cathode Catalyst Layer (CCL) which is the main bottleneck for future PEMFC.
The comprehensive and innovative approach is based on unique and intensive fundamental characterizations coupled with advanced modelling, from sub-micrometer to its full thickness. The analysis are performed on CCL customized with different and original materials, and will cover structural 3D analysis of the CCL, local operando diagnostics (temperature, liquid water) in the CCL, advanced characterization of ionomer films, innovative diagnostics on transport limitations, fundamental electrochemistry. Advanced one and two-phase models will be used as a support to the experiments and benefit from the experiments for more reliable inputs, physics and validation. The approach will also address the durability issues thanks to the better understanding of the correlation between CCL microstructure, local conditions and properties.
FURTHER-FC will propose and validate the performance and durability new ionomer and electrode structures specifically designed to prevent the limitations observed on current MEA, contributing to reach the MAWP targets for horizon 2024-2030.
FURTHER-FC will benefit from the active role of renowned partners gathering significant experience on MEA manufacturing and testing (Toyota Europe, CEA, DLR), state-of-the Art experimental techniques (CEA, DLR, PSI, CNRS-IEM, Univ. of Esslingen, Imperial College of London) and modelling tools (CEA, DLR, CNRS-INPT) supported by international entities (Chemours-US, University of Calgary).
Recently Completed Projects
EPSRC (2022-2023) - Anion exchange membrane water electrolysis for low-cost green hydrogen production (AEM-H2)
Future development of GW-scale green hydrogen production requires substantial cost reduction of electrolysis technology. Existing proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers have technical drawbacks and are limited by the expensive Nafion membranes and electrocatalysts. Anion exchange membrane water electrolysis is one of the most promising electrolysis technologies. However, fundamental research is required to advance AEM technology, particularly in the development of hydrocarbon membranes and electrocatalysts which can catalyse the performance of the systems.
The overall objective of this project is to develop a high-performance, cost-effective and durable anion exchange membrane (AEM) water electrolysis technology. One key challenge is to fabricate membranes with high hydroxide conductivity, good mechanical stability and resistance to chemical deterioration at high temperatures. The lack of effective hydroxide exchange membranes is one of the major obstacles to the development of anion exchange membrane water electrolyser. We will synthesise new generation of polymer membranes to achieve high ionic conductivity and stability. At the same time, although inexpensive and ubiquitous non-precious metal catalysts can be used in AEM electrolysers, currently the activity of these catalysts could be improved. Hence, new electrocatalysts with high reactivity and durability will also be synthesized and paired with newly developed membranes and ionomer binders to form structured membrane electrode assemblies.
EPSRC (2012-2022) - H2FC SUPERGEN
The hydrogen and fuel cells SUPERGEN is funded by the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, as part of the government’s Sustainable Power Generation and Supply initiative. It was set up in 2012 to address the key challenges facing the hydrogen and fuel cell sector as it strives to provide cost competitive, low carbon technologies in a more secure UK energy landscape.
The project seeks to address a number of key issues facing the hydrogen and fuel cells sector, specifically: (i) to evaluate and demonstrate the role of hydrogen and fuel cell research in the UK energy landscape, and to link this to the wider landscape internationally, (ii) to identify, study and exploit the impact of hydrogen and fuel cells in low carbon energy systems, and (iii) to create a cohort of academics and industrialists who are appraised of each other's work and can confidently network together to solve research problems which are beyond their individual competencies. Such systems will include the use of H2FC technologies to manage intermittency with increased penetration of renewables, supporting the development of secure and affordable energy supplies for the future. Both low carbon transport (cars, buses, boats/ferries) and low carbon heating/power systems employing hydrogen and/or fuel cells have the potential to be important technologies in our future energy system, benefiting from their intrinsic high efficiency and their ability to use a wide range of low to zero carbon fuel stocks.
H2020 (2018-2021) - CRESCENDO
Critical Raw material ElectrocatalystS replaCement ENabling Designed pOst-2020 PEMFC
Crescendo is a European project involving two large industrial partners, an SME, and five universities/research institutes in an ambitious proposal that will require critical mass, pooled complementary skills and competences to reach its goals.
This project has the specific objective of developing highly active and long-term stable electrocatalysts of non-PGM catalysts for the PEMFC cathode and the re-design of the cathode catalyst layer on which very little systematic research has been done to date, so as to reach the project target power density of 0.42 W/cm2 at 0.7 V initially in small and ultimately full-size single cells. It also intends to develop non-PGM or ultra-low PGM anode catalysts with greater tolerance to CO and H2S impurities than current low Pt loaded anodes. The project builds on previous achievements in non-PGM catalyst development within all of the university and research organisation project partners. It benefits from the unrivalled know-how in catalyst layer development at JMFC and the overarching expertise at BMW in cell and stack testing and in guiding the materials development to align with systems requirements.
EPSRC (2017-2021) - ISCF Wave 1: Materials research hub for energy conversion, capture, and storage
M-RHECCS: Materials research hub for energy conversion, capture, and storage.
The project sets out to advance understanding of the structure/function relations that control charge transport in energy materials, forging general principles that govern charge mobility and exchange.
It will focus on 1) breaking the paradigm of 'power or energy' by making porous electrodes and porous or microstructured composites that produce power and energy, 2) structure/function relations that govern charge mobility in 'mixed ion/electron conductors' (MIECs) and ultimately control the performance and stability of MIEC-based electrodes and active media and 3) elucidating transport modes in unconventional ion conducting polymers and ceramics.
M-RHECCS will also research the translation of advances in porous electrodes, MIECs and ion-exchange materials into scaleable materials and devices and assess the value of better charge-transport materials to power generation via detailed analysis of operational data from actual building-integrated solar generation/storage systems.
EPSRC (2017-2021) - Beyond structural; multifunctional composites that store electrical energy
The project aims to develop structural supercapacitors in which the constituents (i.e. fibres and matrices) of the structural material are multifunctional, inherently performing two disparate functions simultaneously: mechanical load bearing and electrical energy storage. Such devices offer important performance advantages in minimising system weight and volume, and present opportunities for innovative design. It is notable that there are several synergies between energy storage devices and polymer composites: the laminated architecture of such materials mirrors the electrode configuration in supercapacitors. Furthermore, both devices use carbon based reinforcements/electrodes infused with a polymeric matrix/electrolyte. Such parallels provide a strong motivation for wedding these two disparate fields to develop structural power materials.
Supercapacitors consist of two high surface area electrodes, an electrolyte and a separator: charge is collected reversibly at the electrolyte/electrode interfaces. Their performance makes them useful as high power sources and, when used in conjunction with batteries, life extension for power sources for electric vehicles. For structural supercapacitors, there are two multifunctional components: a structural reinforcement/electrode, and a structural separator/electrolyte. Through our research in this field we have identified three critical challenges for structural supercapacitors: we will address these in this proposal. We will significantly improve how much electrical energy these devices can store (i.e. energy density), how quickly they can be charged or discharged (i.e. power density) and their mechanical performance. To improve energy density, we will develop reinforcements/electrodes with increased surface areas and electrochemical activity. In parallel, we will formulate matrices/electrolytes which are stiff and robust, thus giving enhanced mechanical performance, but with greater ionic conductivity, and hence power densities. In bringing the best constituents together to form multifunctional composites, we will exploit both existing architectures, developed in our previous work, and develop new ones. The project will culminate in demonstration of the best devices through fabrication and testing of industry inspired components.
This class of multifunctional structural energy storage materials will have a huge impact on applications such as aerospace, automotive and portable electronics. For instance, imagine future tablet computers with no batteries, in which the electrical energy is stored in the casing material. Consider electric cars, in which the bonnet, doors and roof store all the energy to power the vehicle. Meeting such ambitions will have a profound effect on future engineering structures and will inspire others to work in this exciting field.
H2020 (2017-2021) - SORCERER
Structural pOweR CompositEs foR futurE civil aiRcraft
his project offers the aircraft industry a stepping-stone for realisation of ‘massless’ energy storage for future aircraft. The overall objective of the project is to advance structural power materials such that they can start to be adopted in Large Passenger Aircraft (LPA). There are three overarching objectives of SORCERER:
Objective 1: The technical issues associated with structural batteries will be addressed. Furthermore, the materials used should have been assessed against the specifications for future aircraft operational conditions.
Objective 2: The function of energy generation utilising ion-intercalated carbon fibres has been demonstrated in a much simplified manner at a small lab-scale. Attention will be paid to how this function works in more detail, how to improve the efficiency and power output, and move this potential technology up towards TRL3.
Objective 3: The critical issues associated with structural supercapacitors that hinder adoption of this technology into aerospace platforms will be concerned. This will entail addressing the issues associated with improved power and energy densities, encapsulation and laminate hybridisation, and multifunctional design methodologies.
EPSRC (2016-2021) - MANIFEST
Multi-scale ANalysIs for Facilities for Energy STorage
The project is to address a set of research questions that apply across the technologies supported by the capital investment. The key challenges will be considered, across length scales, from materials to devices, to systems, specifically addressing:
- How the materials used in enery storage technologies, including batteries and thermal energy
- How processes are modelled in the technologies, and validating the models with experiments
- How energy storage devices can be integrated into the energy system most effectively
- How data from operational runs of pilot plants can improve our understanding of the role of energy storage
This project can be the catalyst which leads to improved understanding of physical processes, accelerated technology development, and shared learning from the operation of energy storage technologies. The research will also drive further collaboration between institutions, build the national research and innovation community, increase recognition of the UK's role, and maximise the impact from these facilities in the international energy landscape.
H2020 (2017-2019) - MEMPHYS
MEMbrane based Purification of HYdrogen System
Membrane based Purification of Hydrogen System (MEMPHYS) aims to develop a hydrogen purification system to reuse hydrogen from different industrial sources.
Hydrogen could be recovered from biomass fermentation and industrial waste gas streams, however, this hydrogen is too impure to feed directly into a fuel cell. The MEMPHYS project plans to develop a hydrogen purification system, based on a membrane hydrogen purification module, which would produce clean, reliable and inexpensive hydrogen from impure sources. The project also intends to combine this purification system with an electrochemical compression system to compress the H2 to 200 bar for use in various applications.
The initiative is part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH2JU), a sub-grouping under Horizon 2020 that focuses on hydrogen and fuel cells. As part of the Horizon 2020 initiative, MEMPHYS receives funding from the EU and has a budget of about 2 Million Euros.
There are a total of six partners from five different countries involved in the project, including two universities (Imperial College London, UK and Duale Hochschule Baden-Wurttemberg (DHBW), Germany), two research institutes (Institute “Jožef Stefan”, Slovenia and Jülich Forschungszentrum, Germany) and two companies (HyET Hydrogen, the Netherlands and Borit, Belgium).
Innovate UK (2017-2018) - Electrochemical harvesting of energy from industrial wastewater
Innovate UK, collaborative R&D project between Imperial College London and (spin-out) Sweetgen Ltd.
Wastewater represents a potent source of energy which currently is underutilised. Industries such as food and beverage production, breweries, wineries or biofuel producers currently expend around USD15 billion worldwide for wastewater treatment, where energy and toxic chemicals and/or slow biological processes need to be used. This wastewater contains biosourced contaminants which could be used as a fuel to generate renewable electricity at almost no cost. We have developed a technology that can harvest this energy and at the same time decrease the contamination. The benefit of this technology is both generation of affordable electricity and money savings from lower water treatment costs. Unlike biological processes our electrochemical system does not contain microbes, which are sensitive to the water conditions, need close process control and expert knowledge. It is basically a “plug and play” process. Another benefit over current biological solutions is that it requires only 1% of the space of a biogas facility, so even companies with little space can implement it. The total renewable electricity produced and the energy saved for wastewater cleaning has the potential to save millions of tons of CO2, thus helping to mitigate climate change.
H2020 (2015-2018) - Symbiotic
Biosensors have the ability to recognize specific molecules (biomarkers) that indicate health conditions, such as cancer. However, their use is limited by the need to have them connected to an electricity generator system.
The Symbiotic project aims to develop an autonomous electrochemical biosensor that is lightweight, disposable and low cost by using an innovative approach: hosting its bioreceptor element inside a passive direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). This will allow to build an electrically independent, very simple, miniaturized, autonomous electrical biosensor. This work proposes a merge between electrical biosensors and fuel cells, combining the advantages of both areas of research in a single synergetic device.
In this envisaged innovative device, the electrical signal obtained from the DMFC is directly related to the concentration of the cancer biomarker in the sample analyzed. The proposed electrochemical biosensor will be completely autonomous, operating at room temperature and using the oxygen present in the air, thereby allowing diagnosis everywhere.
EPSRC (2015-2018) - Innovative concepts from Electrodes to Stacks
The goal of this project is to address Research theme 1 (Innovative concepts from Electrodes to stack) of the EPSRC-KETEP Call for Collaborative Research with Korea on Fuel Cell Technologies. it also covers some aspects of Research theme 2 (Predictive control for performance and degradation mitigation). Hence, this research is associated with improving the lifetime and performance of polymer electrolyte fuel cells.
Within this project, new corrosion resistant catalyst supports will be developed and those supports will be catalysed utilising a new catalysis technique. The development of porous bipolar plates will be examined and how they can be integrated with catalysts within a fuel cell will be checked. The materials in test stacks will be trialed and the performance and longevity of these new materials will be evaluated. State of the art x-ray tomography and other imaging techniques will be applied to assess the performance of the materials under real operating conditions. Information from these tests will allow to develop a methodological framework to simulate the performance of the fuel cells. This framework will then be used to build more efficient control strategies for our higher performance fuel cell systems.