Overview of the Research:
The adoption of hydrogen as a renewable energy carrier is a key strategic goal of the UK’s transition to a low carbon transport system. However, the challenge of H2 storage is a barrier to adoption on a large scale. Catalytic hydrogenation/dehydrogenation could allow H2 to be reversibly stored/stripped from organic molecules which act as liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs). These have the potential to solve the hydrogen storage problem in the short term and to deliver hydrogen on demand through catalytic dehydrogenation reactions; however, a greater understanding of the catalysts required to break C-H/O-H bonds selectively without producing unwanted side products is required.
To date there is limited application of heterogeneous catalysis to LOHC systems outside of fossil fuel derived aromatic systems such as toluene/methylcyclohexane. This provides an opportunity to develop 2nd generation LOHCs based on acceptorless dehydrogenation (release of molecular H2) from small bio-derived molecules. This project will seek to develop new catalysts for efficient hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of a range of potential liquid organic hydrogen carriers including dehydrogenative coupling of short chain diols to polyester oligomers, mixtures of alcohols and amines to form polyamides and the concept of borrowing H2 from H2O through aldehyde hydration will be explored to enhance the possible H2 content of the systems. A more detailed understanding of the catalytic materials (nanoparticle size, morphology and composition) will lead to significant reduction in precious metal content compared to the current “off the shelf” options.
During the project the successful candidate will gain experience of
- Synthesis of nanoparticle catalyst materials by various methods
- Catalytic testing in high pressure systems and chromatography techniques to develop kinetic and mechanistic studies
- Advanced catalyst characterisation by SEM/TEM, XRD and solid-state spectroscopic techniques (UV-Vis/IR)