The RSC Solid State Group Easter Meeting was organised by Professor Aron Walsh (University of Bath) and Dr David Scanlon (UCL) and was held at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre in Chicheley between 14-16 April 2014. This post was contributed by 2nd-year research student Jessica Bristow.
The meeting was attended by both staff and students researching solid-state materials for energy generation, storage and conversion. Over three days multiple topics were addressed including: catalysis, battery technology, photovoltaics, fuel cells and photocatalysis.
One particular personal highlight was the talk by Professor Richard Catlow of UCL who gave a general overview of progress made in the area of solid-state modelling and catalysis. He highlighted the importance of not just trusting published data and that all available computational techniques should be used in cooperatively finding a solution, rather than trusting an individual method.
The meeting also included three excellent talks from Steven Wood, Adam Jackson and Mako Ng, studying in the DTC for Sustainable Chemical Technologies.
Steven spoke about potential materials for sodium ion batteries as an alternative to the current lithium ion batteries. Steven employs molecular mechanics as a means to theoretically predict material properties for a given application.
Adam and Mako both spoke about CZTS, a material composed of copper, zinc, tin and sulphur. CZTS is a popular future photovoltaic material with the potential to be a more sustainable choice for devices to capture the suns energy and convert this to electricity. Adam gave an overview of calculations he has conducted on CZTS, while Mako presented his experimental work synthesising large crystals of the material.
- Steven Wood is supervised by Professor Saiful Islam (Chemistry) and co-supervised by Dr Tim Mays (Chemical Engineering);
- Adam Jackson is supervised by Professor Aron Walsh (Chemistry) and co-supervised by Professor Laurie Peter (Chemistry) and Dr Darrell Patterson (Chemical Engineering);
- Mako Ng is supervised by Professor Mark Weller and co-supervised by Professor Aron Walsh and Dr Philip Shields (Electrical & Electronic Engineering);
- Jessica Bristow is supervised by Professor Aron Walsh and co-supervised by Dr Valeska Ting (Chemical Engineering).
On 1–6 December 2013, DTC student Lee Burton attended the Materials Research Society fall meeting in Boston, USA. He describes the experience for us in this blog post.
As a PhD student I was honoured to be chosen to speak at the largest materials research conference of the calendar year in Boston, USA.
The fall meeting of the Materials Research Society (MRS) brings together academics from all parts of the world each year. The huge scope of the conference was reflected in the 52 different sessions running simultaneously over a period of 5 days. The conference had an exciting dynamic brought about by countless fields of individual research that are still united by core expertise… if you couldn’t find a way to solve a problem at this meeting, it probably couldn’t be solved! Not only that but with days full of cutting-edge science and evenings packed with charged debate, it would be impossible to leave without some new ideas for future work.
My talk was on work regarding new materials for solar energy applications and is summarised as part of the meeting's blog under the section of ‘Technical Sessions’. I spoke alongside existing collaborators and was even able to pick up a few more along the way, strengthening ties between the CSCT and research centres overseas.
Lee is in the final year of his PhD, supervised by Professor Aron Walsh, Chair of Materials Theory in the Department of Chemistry and co-supervised by Professor Keiran Molloy (Chemistry) and Professor Chris Bowen (Mechanical Engineering).
Several researchers from the CSCT, including a number of DTC students, will be attending the MRS Spring Meeting 2014, which runs next week on the 21–25 April.
Edward Mallinckrodt Chemistry Laboratory, Harvard University
The CSCT is pleased to welcome back Lee Burton from his research internship at Harvard University in the United States. Lee spent 5 weeks in Boston, working with the groups of Professor Roy Gordon at Harvard and Dr Tonio Buonassisi at MIT.
These groups share Lee’s research interests in so-called ‘earth abundant photovoltaics’, a branch of materials science that aims to reduce the cost of solar energy by making panels from cheaper materials than are used today.
The expertise of the US groups leans more towards device performance, while Lee’s experience is in the underlying materials chemistry. While there the two worked together to identify likely areas that are limiting performance and devised ways to overcome them.
Lee’s placement marks the initiation of an on-going collaboration, with a recent visit from MIT researchers to Bath and another trip out to Boston scheduled for December 2013.
University of Warwick
MC11 (the 11th International Conference on Materials Chemistry) was held by the Royal Society of Chemistry at the University of Warwick from July 8-11th. Given a reasonably local and affordable opportunity to attend a fully-fledged international conference, four DTC students with an interest in materials went to Coventry.
This post was contributed by second-year research student Adam Jackson.
Eight plenary talks across the four days did well to bring people together, but the star power was really unloaded on the first day, with two Nobel laureates (Dan Schechtman and Sir Harry Kroto). While there was a little indulgence in past success, most of the conference focused on developing technologies: new porous materials, molecular-scale devices and thin functional films.
I noticed a widespread drive to eliminate Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), a transparent conductor widely used in electronics and photovoltaics. This is largely on sustainability grounds, and supply shortages are expected in the near future. My engineering interest was also somewhat satisfied to see considerable interest in fabrication technologies. My colleagues had their own highlights:
I enjoyed Andy Cooper's lecture on covalent organic frameworks (COFs) and how to predict their properties. This in my opinion was the best talk; it was realistic in understanding the barriers and complications with the material, but also an informative presentation on the potential they have to be useful future materials.
— Jess Bristow, 1st-year DTC student
The most interesting talk from my perspective was a keynote lecture from Dr. Thomas E Albrecht-Schmitt from Florida State University. He presented remarkable work on several unstable elements of the actinide series of the periodic table. Not only did his research reveal 'unusual structures and unprecedented properties' but his observations will better allow for the safe storage of vitrified nuclear waste deep underground.
— Lee Burton, 3rd-year DTC student
I personally think the Harold Kroto lecture was the highlight for me; as my work involves fullerenes, it was really interesting to see the history and to hear the story of them in space. [After a period of skepticism, there is now strong evidence for the existence of fullerenes in interstellar clouds]. Added to that, I met some great people at Warwick and am now looking to extend this into a short collaboration with a group at the University of Warwick.
— Ben Hodges, 3rd-year DTC student
The University of Warwick's conference facilities were outstanding, with the four parallel sessions all held within a pleasant Arts Centre. Many productive discussions were also to be found in the campus's excellent tea shop.
Four DTC students recently participated in a three-day energy themed business competition organised for postgraduate researchers in the EPSRC-funded Network of Energy Centres for Doctoral Training.
Lee Burton, David Miles, Lisa Sargeant and Kathryn Wills represented our DTC to compete against nine other teams at the Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Energy YES) which took place in Edinburgh on 22-24 May. The scheme was created to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship amongst researchers.
Over the three days there were presentations and case studies from leading business and industry figures which covered a range of topics around entrepreneurship, commercialisation and technology transfer. In addition to these sessions, the teams also spent a large part of the week devising a 5-year business plan for a new business idea related to an energy technology.
Mentors from a variety of backgrounds with experience spanning the energy sector and start-up businesses were on hand to offer advice and the week culminated with an oral business plan presentation to a group of potential investors.
Although it was the team from the Midlands Energy Graduate School who were ultimately successful, our students all agreed that the workshop was a very useful experience for learning business skills and an excellent opportunity for networking with the other Energy CDTs and energy-sector professionals.
Team CSCT at work
Team CSCT presenting
Photos 1 & 2 reproduced with permission from the Energy CDT Network.
This post comes from a group of our students who recently went to Bristol to explain some of their work to a mixed audience.
The Tobacco Factory in the heart of Bristol was the location of two recent talks on sustainability by CSCT PhD students. The students formed two panels to present their respective expertise at a recent Science Café event under the headings of “What’s in Your Shopping Bag?” and “Fuelling the Future”.
The first group involving Thomas Forder, Julia Griffin, Luke Williams, Rebecca Bamford and Will Reynolds spoke about the chemicals and elements that most people will encounter on a day-to-day basis, most likely without even realising it. This went on to address some of the negative preconceptions people might bear towards perfectly benign or indeed beneficial chemicals.
Lee Burton, Lisa Sargeant and Daniel Minett delivered the second talk discussing the ways in which we can move away from fossil fuels to cleanly and efficiently power the world of tomorrow. This included a variety of important topics ranging from climate change to renewable energies in the context of recent policy changes at home and abroad.
Both talks were followed by questions from the 40-strong audience leading to a wider dialogue between all participants, from retired professors to students with no scientific background.
Laura Walker, who co-ordinates the events, said she was “very impressed … with the high calibre of these students and the excellent talks they delivered … with confidence and clarity. The presentations were excellent and pitched exactly right for the diverse audience.”
The students also attracted the interest of others working to deliver science to a wider audience, including the director of Bristol based company My Future My Choice, Mr Hugh Thomas. Building on the successes of these events to further extend the impact of our science, the CSCT congratulates our students on their continued excellence in the field of public engagement.