Investing in researchers
Microporous materials, which can selectively filter out specific chemicals, are an essential component of many existing and future technologies, including absorbing pollutants from air and water, purifying or concentrating chemicals during manufacturing, and as a critical component of batteries and fuel cells. Developing these materials is of great commercial importance, and also crucial to creating a zero pollution world.
Qilei Song is a specialist in developing these functional nanoporous materials, with applications across many industries. He joined the Chemical Engineering department of Imperial College London in 2014 as a Junior Research Fellow. He had completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge.
In 2016 he was awarded £25,000 in seed funding from IMSE (backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EPSRC) in our first year of operation. This was for a short project on ionic-selective membranes in aqueous redox flow batteries for energy storage. This grant allowed him to set up a collaboration with an established research group in electrochemical energy storage at Imperial (Nigel Brandon and Vladimir Yufit, both in Earth Science & Engineering).
The work done with this grant contributed to a paper in Nature Materials in 2020: Hydrophilic microporous membranes for selective ion separation and flow-battery energy storage.
Qilei gained a lectureship at Imperial in 2016, and won an ERC starting grant for €1.5million in 2019 for a 5-year project called NanoMMES (Design and NanoEngineering of Microporous Membranes for Energy Storage). He now holds multiple grants from ESPRC, including as co-investigator of the £9M EPSRC Programme Grant SynHiSel involving collaboration between seven UK universities, which aims to develop high selectivity membranes for next generation chemical separation processes (high selectivity, high value, high efficiency).
Qilei now leads his own research group on functional membranes and energy materials.
He says: “Our research activities combine molecular design and engineering processes to generate innovative technologies that help address global challenges. Such interdisciplinary approaches align really well with the vision of IMSE and I benefited a lot from the interactions with IMSE. I am also grateful to the seed-funding support from IMSE, which helped me establish collaborations with colleagues through the broad network of IMSE, and importantly boosted my confidence to pursue my own research ideas.”