Water, energy, and the environment were listed as part of the “Top Ten Problems Facing Humanity Over the Next 50 Years" by Dr Richard Smalley. To address these challenges, researchers must propose transformative approaches to energy production and environmental remediation, and overcome obstacles pertaining to the control of nanomaterials' properties.
Following this vision, our research focuses on the rational design, characterisation and testing of new multifunctional nanomaterials as a platform for addressing environmental, water and energy sustainability (via, for instance, new approaches to CO2 capture and conversion as well as water purification). To accomplish this goal, both in-situ and ex-situ characterisation techniques are used to investigate the separation, catalytic, kinetic and thermodynamic properties of novel nanomaterials.
Designing multifunctional materials for global challenges
The focus is to design, synthesise, characterise and test materials for the environmental and energy sectors. Particular areas of interest are those of carbon management and water purification/reuse. Relying on the increasing complexity and sophistication of materials, we aim at building materials that can perform multiple functions (i.e. multifunctional materials) as a way to integrate multiple processes (e.g. carbon capture and conversion; water purification and hydrogen production). The materials of choice are 3D porous materials (e.g. metal-organic frameworks) and 2D nanomaterials (e.g. nitrides).
Tuning materials across scales
While developing multifunctional materials, it is crucial to control their structure and chemistry, and understand the links with the materials properties. 2D materials are very interesting in this regard as they provide a high surface area for potential adsorptive/catalytic interactions. However, nanosheets never come alone and tend to stack on top of each other preventing access to the surface area. Here, we aim to create hierarchical 3D structures from 2D nanosheets using wet/dry techniques.
Providing a multi-scale approach to materials development
The solid materials we study can exhibit a multitude of structures and chemistries. A purely experimental approach is therefore not the most efficient way to identify the best material for a given application. For this reason, we have adopted a multi-scale approach. While this is relatively common for liquids, this approach remains largely unexplored in the case of solids for our targeted applications. Here, we collaborate with molecular modelling and process system engineering teams as a way to move from molecular (molecular modelling) to nano-scale/lab-scale (materials synthesis/testing) all the way to pilot scale (process system engineering).