In September 2015 I had the opportunity to travel to Stellenbosch University, South Africa, as one of the University’s strategic partners. I was presenting my research at a Newton Fund/British Council funded Early-Career Researcher Links Conference co-sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry on hydrogen storage at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria.
The conference was designed to enable early-career researchers in the UK to establish collaborations with other early-career researchers in South Africa and other newly industrialised and developing countries around the world.
Both Dr Valeska Ting from the Department of Chemical Engineering and I gave our talks to the conference delegates during the porous materials day of the conference. Other days focused on storage of hydrogen as chemical hydrides and hydrogen fuel cells.
The UK delegates were also lucky enough to be taken on a short sightseeing trip around the Gauteng area of South Africa including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site the Cradle of Humankind where the fossils of a number of early hominoid species have been found, a lion park, the Voortrekker Monument and the statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Collaboration with Stellenbosch University
As I was already in South Africa, it was a great opportunity to visit Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape Province to further develop the collaboration already started by Dr Ting from the Department of Chemical Engineering. Dr Ting travelled to Stellenbosch last year on a Global Mobility Scheme award from the International Relations Office.
I was able to continue the collaboration with Professor Len Barbour in Stellenbosch looking at Metal-Organic Frameworks (highly porous crystalline hybrid networks made from a combination of organic linkers and inorganic metal centres) as potential hydrogen storage materials. Professor Barbour and his research group have developed a number of unique characterisation techniques coupling together traditional characterisation methods in order to probe what happens to porous materials when they are under high gas pressures.
In particular we were interested in looking at what happens to our materials when they are under high pressures of hydrogen gas. In the Barbour laboratory they have developed a system to directly measure the heat given off when a material is dosed with different gases using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). This technique enables us measure the enthalpies of adsorption over a wide pressure range and at different temperatures.
Exploring the town of Stellenbosch
While the experiments were running, I also had a little bit of time to explore Stellenbosch, one of the first European settlements in South Africa as well as its surroundings in the wine region with a short wine tasting session.
Having returned to Bath, our task is to analyse our data. The funding from the International Relations Office has proved invaluable to our research here at Bath and we hope to publish the results of our collaboration with Professor Barbour soon.
Dr Robert Dawson is a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry working on the use of porous materials for high pressure hydrogen storage tanks with Dr Andrew Burrows (Chemistry) and Dr Tim Mays (Chemical Engineering).