Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

5th Molecular Materials Meeting, Aquarium and the Universal Studios in Singapore

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Joe Thompson and Andrew Rushworth went to Singapore to give talks on CVD growth of Tungsten disulfide-graphene and Tin sulfide-graphene heterostructure respectively. Here is Joe's account on their trip:

Andrew and I recently attended the 5th Molecular Materials Meeting hosted by the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) out in Singapore. With six parallel sessions and a host of plenary lectures across three days we had plenty of interesting talks to keep us occupied. The conference had a broad range of subject areas from nanotechnology in food to sustainable materials for energy generation. Throughout the conference the organisers and plenary speakers emphasised the importance of working across disciplines and collaborating with industry.

Day one focussed on nanoparticles, metamaterials, food nanotechnology, material surfaces and sustainable porous materials. Day two had sessions on thermoelectrics, healthcare materials, sustainable energy materials, biomimetic materials and sensing materials. Whilst day three composed of sessions on environmentally sustainable materials, healthcare materials, functional materials, luminescent materials and 2D materials. Both Andrew and I presented at the conference which was a great experience to exhibit our work outside of the university and gain experience presenting to an international audience.

Whilst there were plenty of talks to keep us busy at the conference, there were also opportunities to explore and experience Singapore. The conference cocktail event was held at Singapore’s aquarium which was a pretty spectacular place to wander round. The conference dinner on the final day took place within Universal Studios Singapore where we had access to some of the rides and got to meet Marilyn Monroe. While we were out in Singapore the country celebrated its 50th Jubilee which meant that we could join in with the celebrations and experience some fireworks.

Conference cocktail in Singapore Aquarium.

Conference cocktail in Singapore Aquarium.

Joe is working towards his PhD on "New precursors for application in thin film chalcogenide materials" with Andrew Johnson and Daniel Wolverson.

Andrew is working towards his PhD on "The Development of Graphene Based Materials" with Paul Raithby, Simon Bending and Andrew Johnson.


Experts in Porous Materials meet in Poland


📥  Seminars & Conferences

Leighton Holyfield writes about a conference in Poland, where he presented a poster on designing safe hybrid hydrogen storage tanks. 

On 16 July 2015, I started my journey to Wroclaw, Poland for the Ninth International Symposium on Surface Heterogeneities in Adsorption and Catalysis (ISSHAC-9), along with my supervisor, Dr Tim Mays, as well as Dr Nuno Bimbo and Antonio Noguera-Diaz of the Mays group. We flew to Wroclaw early on 17 July, and following registration, set out to explore the city with the half day we had available, taking in the main square in Wroclaw, enjoying the warm weather and trying traditional Polish dishes.

The east side of the old town hall in Wroclaw town square

The east side of the old town hall in Wroclaw town square

The conference started on the morning of Saturday 18 July, with an opening from Professor Wladimir Rudzinski, the chair of the conference organising committee, before the opening lecture from Professor Sofia Calero, who spoke about computational modelling of porous materials for use in industry and environmental protection. All the talks given in the session were allocated half an hour (typically 20 – 25 minutes for the presentation, and 5 – 10 minutes for questions), and as such all the speakers were allowed to go into their work in depth, which was good, although on the occasions that the talks weren’t very relevant to our work this could become burdensome. The sessions contained anywhere between 3 and 5 talks, with coffee breaks in between. Of the talks that most interested me during the talk were those given by Ana Martin-Calvo (University Pablo de Olavide, Spain), who was screening zeolite topologies for optimal hydrogen storage, Sarah Couck (De Vriejes University, Belgium), who presented studies on COMOC-2, a novel MOF of their creation, and Agnieszka Kierys (MarieCurie-Sklodowska University, Poland), who demonstrated a tertiary composite of porous polymer, silica gel and diclofenac for advanced drug delivery applications. Also of note was the talk of Antonio, who presented his PhD work on correlations between properties of MOFs.

The 5 day conference contained not only a large number of oral presentations, but also 3 poster sessions. These were between 1 ½ - 2 hours long, and generally featured ~ 25 posters. I presented a poster entitled ‘PIM-MOF Composites for Use in Hybrid High Pressure Hydrogen Storage Tanks’, the content of which was the results of my PhD to date. The session was a success; a number of people were interested in my work, and I even got the contact details of one Polish researcher for a potential collaboration!

ISSHAC’s unusual length was also due to a focus placed on social events and discussion, so there was ample opportunity to network with other researchers and to enjoy the city of Wroclaw. On the morning of 19 July, we went on a half-day walking tour of the city. This was a fantastic way to see the city, to ask questions about the city to an English-speaking local, and to get a bit of exercise in amongst all the sitting around and eating.

Meals were all catered for at this conference, which provided a springboard for networking (socialising!), with many of the Polish students attending the conference being very friendly and willing to talk us through the food and customs of the locals, amongst other things. The conference dinner on the penultimate evening was held in the Olesnica castle, about 30 km from Wroclaw, where all the conference attendees sat on long benches and tucked into a number of traditional Polish dishes. This was then followed with a gypsy show, consisting of live music and traditional dancing. It was a very pleasant evening in a historic setting, and another excellent opportunity to network.

All in all, I was very glad to be able to attend the conference, as I feel I gained a lot from it, both professionally in learning from other researchers and presenting my own work, but also personally, as I have made friends and collaborations that would never otherwise have been possible. I am very grateful to the Guild of Armourers and Brasiers for making my trip possible, and would thoroughly recommend anyone working in porous materials, either for adsorptive or catalytic purposes, to think about attending future ISSHAC conferences.

Leighton is in his second year at the CSCT working on designing safe hybrid hydrogen storage tanks with Dr Tim Mays and Dr Andrew Burrows.


Team Hydrogen goes to Florida

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Students from the University of Bath’s Mays and Ting groups, colloquially known as ‘Team Hydrogen’, recently attended the 7th International Workshop on Characterization of Porous Materials in Florida. CSCT students Leighton Holyfield and Jemma Rowlandson presented their work to leading porous materials scientists from around the world. This post was contributed by Leighton. 

leighton-team-hydrogenHundreds of the world’s finest porous materials scientists descended upon the warm and sunny climes of southern Florida for the Characterization of Porous Materials Workshop. The conference, held over four days, saw 46 oral and 84 poster presentations made, spanning a wide variety of concepts within porous materials science, from detailed analyses on whether current adsorption protocol is correct, to the synthesis of new materials such as MOFs and activated carbons, to new applications for standard materials. Certainly, there was a wealth of knowledge and experience, and being able to be a part of it was quite the experience.

Following an enjoyable first day in which registration and an evening gala were the only arranged affairs (allowing for enjoyment of the Florida sunshine and the Marriott hotel’s pool!), the science started on Day 2. Following an introduction from Alexander Neimark, the conference organiser, Bernt Smarsly gave a fascinating insight into the use of SAXS/SANS for the characterisation of micropores, and the conference was underway.

Talks of particular interest on day 2 were those of Jean Rouquerol, who discussed whether the accepted science of the ‘Gibbs excess amount’ is applied correctly, Phil Llewelyn, who compared MOFs for CO2 storage and developed metrics based on the results and Daniel Siderius, who presented the ever-evolving NIST database of known adsorbents.

Day 2 was finished with an evening poster session, in which both Jemma and I presented the findings from our MRes projects in our first year. Unfortunately, this was the only time dedicated to poster presentation, as it would have been nice to have more time to discuss our findings with the other attendees.

Also of great interest were the final three talks of day 4. These were given by Bath’s own Valeska Ting on Team Hydrogen’s work on hydrogen adsorption in activated carbons (particularly some neutron scattering work that appears to show hydrogen at solid-like densities in the adsorbed phase), and Bogdan Kuchta, who gave a general overview of hydrogen storage in microporous materials. The last lecture of the conference was given by Peter Pfeiffer, who gave a very interesting lecture on new activated carbons and hydrogen storage within these, showing storage densities in the adsorbed monolayer above that of liquid hydrogen.

After the closing of the conference, there was a tour of the Quantachrome facility up the road in Baton Rouge, and the evening was closed out with a boat trip, cruising up and down the Gulf Stream river to see all the multi-million dollar homes!

Ultimately, CPM-7 was a thoroughly worthwhile trip, as we learnt a lot, made new contacts for potential future collaborations, and had the opportunity to present our work to some of the leading porous materials scientists in the world. We came home eager to crack on with our work and await the next opportunity!

Leighton is currently in his second year of PhD working on designing safe hybrid hydrogen storage tanks with Dr Tim Mays and Dr Andrew Burrows


Beer and Batteries in Bremen: 11th ECHEMS Meeting


📥  Seminars & Conferences

Second year student Emma Sackville recently attended the 11th ECHEMS meeting in Bad Zwischenahn, near Bremen. Here's how she got on:

What does a statue of a chicken-on-a-cat-on-a-dog-on-a-donkey have in common with electrochemistry? Admittedly not much, but I was able to experience both of them when I visited Bremen in mid-June for the 11th EChems meeting. As the conference was on a Monday I made the most of the weekend to explore the town. A beautiful little city in North West Germany, with a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site for a town centre, Bremen was hosting a festival called ‘La Strada’ during my stay. Inexplicably this included people driving round the town square on spikey quad bikes and dancing with suitcases. Whilst I still can’t tell you what the festival was for/about it did lend a certain party atmosphere to the town; who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?!

From left to right: One of the performers at the La Strada festival riding his quad bike, The famous statue of the Town Musicians in Bremen, Dancing with Suitcases!

From left to right: one of the performers at the La Strada festival riding his quad bike, the famous statue of the Town Musicians in Bremen, dancing with Suitcases!

After a very enjoyable weekend soaking up the German atmosphere, I made the short train journey over to Bad Zwischenahn where the conference was being held.

First started in 2006, the EChems Meeting is held annually to bring together researchers working in electrochemistry and its application to topical scientific problems. The theme for this year was molecular electrochemistry for application in renewable energy; an area which was of direct relevance to my own PhD research looking at molecular electrocatalysts for energy conversion. We enjoyed excellent talks in a wide range of areas, from batteries to biofuel cells and everything in between. Amongst many excellent presentations, Tsukasa Yoshida gave a particularly memorable talk about solar cells where he compared them to artificial intelligence robots that could have children and grandchildren; I’ll never think of them in the same way…!

All the conference attendees in front of the Bad Zwischenahn Lake, Plenary speaker Francesco Paolucci. Photo credits to the EChems team

All the conference attendees in front of the Bad Zwischenahn Lake, Plenary speaker Francesco Paolucci. Photo credits to the EChems team

On the last day I caught up with one of the plenary speakers, Professor Francesco Paolucci, from the University of Bologna. Given my own work in water oxidation catalysts I particularly enjoyed his talk about nano-composites for use in the Artificial Leaf, and I chatted to him about his beer preferences and what he thinks the challenges are for electrochemistry.

What did you enjoy most about the conference?

Not the weather! No seriously it was very well organised and there were lots of speakers from areas that were very different to mine. I particularly enjoyed hearing from speakers related to applications and engineering as I don’t often hear about that area so it made for a very varied programme. In general I think one of the main points of the EChems meeting is to push research in the area of molecular electrochemistry; an area which seemed to be disappearing. This is really bad because the new generation just don’t know what has been done 30-40 years ago and so you are losing some of the know-how about procedures, protocols and theoretical interpretation of data. I think this is one of the things that the EChems meetings have been so successful with over the years.

What do you think the most important challenge for electrochemistry is?

Exactly what we’ve been talking about this week; for me energy related work is the most important challenge. So managing to split water and reduce CO2 is something that should be the main focus for most of the financial schemes in the next 10 years. In fact this is what’s starting to happen. On national levels we have projects that have been funded by the national government on CO2 reduction and water splitting – they’re big, important projects and I hope they continue.

And lastly, German or Italian beer?!

(laughs) What do you think?! If it were wine it’d be different but it’s got to be German beer!

Despite not being an electrochemist by training I really enjoyed the conference. I feel that it has broadened my knowledge of areas where electrochemistry is important, and for me really highlighted its relevance and application. I would like to thank the RSC again for its generous support for my attendance.

Emma's is working towards her PhD on "Molecularly defined electro-catalysts for energy conversion and biomass valorisation" with Uli Hintermair and Frank Marken.


Could hydrogen be the answer?


📥  Events, Prizes & awards, Research updates

Second year CSCT student, Jemma Rowlandson, writes about her research topic of materials for hydrogen storage. Jemma recently won the regional finals of the Institution of Engineering and Technology's Present Around the World Competition and won a prize of £300 and a place at the national finals.

One of the greatest challenges faced by our generation is global warming. As global temperatures continue to rise, this will lead to severe and potentially irreversible climate change. The big question is, how do we stop it?

team-hydrogen1Transport accounts for a quarter of domestic carbon dioxide emissions in the UK. Not only this, but vehicles produce particles which lower the air quality and can be harmful. This is why a lot of research in the CSCT and elsewhere focuses on replacing diesel and petrol cars. One potential technology we could use is hydrogen.

Hydrogen is the most lightweight and abundant element in the universe, and it could be the answer to a lot of our problems. Hydrogen is used as rocket fuel, and with good reason; it has a very high energy density, meaning you need to use a lot less of it in comparison to petrol or diesel. Not only this, but hydrogen has the amazing potential to be completely green. This is because you can make hydrogen by splitting water, use that hydrogen to power your car, and out of the exhaust comes only water!

Although this seems like a perfect solution, there are a couple of very big problems associated with hydrogen technology. One of the most critical is that hydrogen is a gas and so very difficult to store, because it takes up a lot space. To store 4 kg of hydrogen at room temperature and atmospheric pressure (enough to get you from Manchester to London) you would need to attach about 600 party balloons full of flammable hydrogen gas to your car. Not a great idea.

So what can we do instead? Well the best way at the moment is to compress the hydrogen into a gas cylinder, at either 350 or 700 times atmospheric pressure. This in turn comes with its own problems. For a start not everyone is entirely comfortable sitting above a highly pressurised flammable hydrogen gas cylinder. The other is that this is actually very expensive! You’ve not only got the energy cost of compressing the gas, but also the cost of the cylinder itself which has to be able to withstand a car crash. If we ever want to see mass market hydrogen cars we need to drop the price of this fuel tank.

There are many different approaches to hydrogen storage; the one focused on at Bath is to use a nanoporous material. There are lots of materials to choose from but they all work in pretty much the same way, using a process called adsorption. Now this is different to absorption, which is the process of taking something in (like a sponge absorbs water). Adsorption by contrast is when something sticks or ‘adsorbs’ onto a surface. For hydrogen storage this means the hydrogen gas molecules stick to the surface of the material, packing closely together and increasing your hydrogen storage capacity. If you put this material inside a gas cylinder you could store the same amount of hydrogen but at a lower pressure, making it both safer and cheaper.


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Jemma Rowlandson wins the local round of the IET PATW