University wins funding for renewables research

The University of Aberdeen has been awarded £148,500 to bring early career researchers to Aberdeen to carry out research into renewable energy storage and conversion.

The award, from the Universities UK International (UUKi) Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grants programme, is funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy (BEIS). The grant will be used to bring four early career researchers from Curtin University in Australia and IMP and CIVESTAV-INP (both in Mexico) to Aberdeen for nine months each.

While here, the Rutherford Fellows will work on a range of projects within the area of renewable energy storage and conversion, from carbon capture, storage and utilisation, to electrochemical storage of electricity from renewables and photocatalytic conversion of solar energy.

The Rutherford programme aims to help universities build on global strategic partnerships, and the funding will help deepen existing links between the University of Aberdeen and its partner institutions in Australia and Mexico.

Dr Angel Cuesta, from the University’s Department of Chemistry, and Dr Claudia Fernández-Martín, from the School of Engineering, led the successful funding bid.

Dr Cuesta said: “We are one of only 17 UK universities to be awarded a Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grant, which is testament to our status as a leading university in the area of renewable energy research, and to the strength of our international collaborations.

“Not only will this initiative strengthen our international connections and open up the possibility of future research collaborations, it will also enhance existing inter-disciplinary work here at the University between our departments of engineering and chemistry.

Renewable energy storage and conversion is a vitally important area of research in terms of cutting global CO2 emissions, and the work that these four talented early career researchers will be engaged in will help advance our collective knowledge of the potential for new techniques that can help achieve this goal.

I very much look forward to welcoming all of them to Aberdeen in the months ahead, and to working with them on these exciting projects.”

Notes for Editors

The four early career researchers due to come to Aberdeen are:

Yu Liu, Curtin University, Australia: Yu’s research will focus on the use of perovskite as materials for oxygen intercalation electrodes to be used in supercapacitors, as well as for positive electrodes in water-splitting electrolysers. The former allow for an efficient storage and conversion of energy from renewables with low energy density but very high power density. The latter also allow to store energy from renewables, in this case as hydrogen, which can then be used as fuel in a fuel cell.

Ghulam Hussain, Curtin University, Australia: Ghulam’s work will aim at the electrodeposition of MOFs doped with metal nanoparticles. The resulting three-dimensional structures will be tested for electrocatalytic splitting of water, electrocatalytic reduction of nitrogen to ammonia (a process which, although not directly involved in energy storage and conversion can result in considerable energy savings compared with the 100 years old Haber-Bosch process currently used) and electroreduction of CO2 to fuels.

Heriberto Díaz, IMP, Mexico: He will study the use of meso-estructured ceramic materials and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) functionalized with nanoparticles of semiconducting compounds active to visible light for the photocatalytic reduction of CO2 to alcohols. The final goal is to develop an efficient process to convert CO2 captured from the atmosphere or from effluent gases into compounds that can be used as fuels, eventually leading to a carbon neutral energy cycle.

Osiry Hernández, CINVESTAV, Mexico: Osiry will work on the design of three-dimensional hybrid inorganic-organic composites. These materials can behave as molecular magnets, which can be used to store energy from renewables.

Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grants

The Universities UK International (UUKi) Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grants programme provides funding for eligible UK higher education institutions to offer short-term fellowships that will build on and enhance their global strategic partnerships. The fellowships are funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Rutherford Fund, with the aim of attracting global talent and strengthening the UK’s research base.