Dr Alexey Ganin
- Senior Lecturer (School of Chemistry)
ECOS group is looking for exceptional candidates interested in Energy research. A fully funded 3.5 years (UK only candidates) project titled "Exploring the Efficiency and Sustainability of Green Hydrogen Production: Utilizing Solid State Electrocatalysts and 3D printed cells in Water Electrolysis" is available from the 1st of October 2023. To learn more press HERE.
In the ElectroChemistry On Solids (ECOS) group we carry out the synthesis of solid state electrocatalysts and employ them in electrochemical systems to study processes that could help with the storage of the renewable electricity as fuels. We also employ thin film technology because we believe they are key to minimisation of the amount of materials used at the maximum surface capacity. We hope they may bring us a few steps closer to practical and dependable solution to future energy storage without increasing costs.
Below is the snapshot of activities across the group that may bring us closer to practical and dependable solution to future energy storage.
Storing Excess of Renewable Energy as Fuels
We believe green energy is great way to heat our homes but what happens when there is too much wind or sun? What to do with the excess of energy during max production almost as a big challenge as what do when there is too little. Storing the excess as fuels for later is our solution to address this challenge. We develop solid state electrocatalysts and deploy them in electrolysers (both commercial and in-house built) which are devices that could help us generate H2 or other products that can act as fuels from water and /or CO2.
One of the most exciting applications of electrochemistry is the production of hydrogen, which is a clean and renewable fuel that can be used to power cars, buses, trains, and even airplanes. It can also be used to store excess renewable energy, making it a key technology for the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid. Producing hydrogen from water in electrolyser requires advanced materials to make sure it can be produced at reasonable cost before being stored and later fed into a fuel cell. Our core research is focused on production of solid state electrocalalyst (see the list of recent publications by pressing HERE to learn more) and understanding their electrochemical properties. For example, our recent research has shown that the activity towards HER in transition metal nitrides can be effectively controlled by effective choice of doping elements.
In this respect, 2D materials are particularly interesting subject because their surface is very easy to define making them attractive subjects for computational studies which allows for precise prediction of their properties for energy applications. We have taken a fresh approaches to the way we view the 2D catalysts for hydrogen evolution. In series of papers including one in Nature Comms. titled “The rapid electrochemical activation of MoTe2 for the hydrogen evolution reaction” we proposed a method for producing hydrogen from electrolysis more effectively and more economically. The team discovered that electrodes covered with MoTe2 showed an increase in the amount of hydrogen gas produced during the electrolysis when a specific pattern of high-current pulses was applied. By optimizing the pulses of current through the acidic electrolyte, they could reduce the overpotential needed for hydrogen evolution by nearly 50% when compared with the non-activated material. Supported by computational studies we explained this dramatic improvement by relating it to the electronic structure of the catalyst. Since the level of catalytic enhancement is controlled by electric currents, the aim is to find the right combination of sequences (for example through machine learning) and also expand the work to similar 2D systems.
Another approach to achieving a substantial boost in H2 production is to tap into abundance of catalytic sites in molecular materials. Our recent work in collaboration with Dr. Miras at the University of Glasgow drew attention to polyoxochalcogenide (POC). Due to a simple design they can be immobilized on a solid substrate. That warrants their high stability as no significant loss in activity was observed which is helping the team to make an important step towards bringing molecular electrocatalysts into applications. The paper “Tuning and mechanistic insights of metal chalcogenide molecular catalysts for the hydrogen-evolution reaction” published in Nature Comms. was backed up by the comprehensive computational work which helped us to understand the mechanism of the reaction.
Electrochemistry on thin films
Together with Profs David Moran and Nikolaj Gadeegard from the School of Engineering, we aim at discovery of a universal process for the production of large area, multi-layer 2D metal chalcogenide films and their implementation in water electrolysis. Similar to graphene their surfaces look like East-Asian terraced rice paddies making for abundance of catalytic sites at atomically thin scale. We formed one of them directly on to a substrate material of choice from readily sourced materials as described in the paper "Selective phase growth and precise-layer control in MoTe2". Now funded by EPSRC on a project "Supported MoTe2: proving the viability of a 2D material to be employed in the PEM flow cell for the hydrogen production" we exploit the 2D feature and harvest the energy from the basal planes. We have been working on improving the electrode design since then by preparing atomically thin MoTe2 films and deploy them directly in electrolysers.
Remarkably, MoTe2 is a promising SERS platform for biosensing as we described recently in "Application of a 2D Molybdenum Telluride in SERS Detection of Biorelevant Molecules" together with our colleagues in Prague. 2D MoTe2 films detect lipophilic disease marker β-sitosterol with nanomolar sensitivity due to chemical enhancement which boosted Surface Enhance Raman Spectroscopy sensitivity. Using MoTe2 films, can help with detecting a disease marker called β-sitosterol at levels as low as nanomole. The SERS response from the films was also found to be homogeneous and reproducible, making them a promising new SERS platform for biosensing.
CO2 capture, storage and conversion
Although the primary goal of ECOS group is to convert CO2 to fuels electrochemically we also continue research in efficient ways of storing carbon dioxide. For example, the interdisciplinary work pursued together with Chemical Engineers at Heriot-Watt University led by Dr. Humphrey Yiu titled "Aminated poly(vinyl chloride) solid state adsorbents with hydrophobic function for post-combustion CO2 capture" showed how to employ general waste such as PVC as part of highly porous systems. We have successfully deposited PVC on mesoporous silicas to achieve good capacity for CO2 capture. Moreover, due to hydrophobic function the new solid state sorbent can be operated in humid environment without significant loss in capacity and be regenerated as low as 75oC.
EP/W03333X/1 "Supported MoTe2: proving the viability of a 2D material to be employed in the PEM flow cell for the hydrogen production"
EP/P001653/1: "Modular assembly of high temperature superconductors from dimensionally reduced iron-based chalcogenide blocks"
- Khungwa, Jessie
Carbon nanomaterials and transition metal chalcogenides for energy conversion and storage
- Maini, Isha
Development of advanced transfer doping processes in diamond for high performance electronic applications
- McFadzean, Ross
Microwaves in situ; rapid materials synthesis probed in real time with neutrons
- Qu, Chunlin
Hydrogen-terminated diamond based electronic devices
- Zhang, Jingyi
Production and characterization of new 2D materials for electronic applications
Head of Materials Chemistry Programme
Sustainability Advisor for the School of Chemistry