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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I004882/1
Title: Multidisciplinary research into linking renewable energy with utilising atmospheric carbon dioxide and with water desalination
Principal Investigator: Varcoe, Professor JR
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Air Fuel Synthesis Ltd Indian Inst of Technology Kharagpur
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Surrey
Scheme: Leadership Fellowships
Starts: 01 September 2010 Ends: 31 December 2015 Value (£): 1,189,478
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Fuel Cell Technologies
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Jun 2010 EPSRC Fellowships 2010 Interview Panel G Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The applicant is an experienced energy researcher with particular expertise in polymer electrolytes and fuel cell testing using combined d.c. and a.c. electrochemical methods. He has made a major contribution to the establishment of enviable facilities at Surrey for energy research. The anion-exchange ionomers and membranes developed by the applicant have led to a significant increase in the (international) profile of anion-exchange membrane based energy systems. Important breakthroughs include novel alkaline polymers (membranes and ionomers) with high ionic conductivities (some developments deemed highly significant and led to the filing of a Patent). The applicant will use this opportunity to develop a broad range of interrelated disruptive technologies, to establish a focused portfolio of protected intellectual property and to further stimulate team-working between local, national, and international researchers in the associated fields; this is to draw together complimentary strands in disparate areas in a coherent manner where the commonalities are not readily obvious (a step-change move away from research that is targeted on a limited area).The proposed research (managed risk profile) is focused at the highlighted research theme of Energy (renewable generation) and fully addresses the training and supply of skilled people agenda. The background research will be to continue development of novel materials (including polymer electrolyte materials, ionomers and hybrid proton-/anion- membrane systems) for clean energy generation and storage (e.g. fuel cells and redox flow batteries). However, the principal aim of the Fellowship is to extend the above technologies and link them to water technologies and the utilisation of atmospheric CO2 [this latter is highly speculative but will address the grand challenge of utilising CO2 in synthesis and transforming the chemicals industry].The first specific work package will be to investigate low temperature metal-free carbonate-conducting anion-exchange membrane systems: Utilisation of these carbonate-containing AAEMs in fuel cells with hydrogen fuelled anodes and air/CO2 mixed feed cathodes can set up a carbonate cycle, where the CO2 is effectively pumped from the cathode to the anode to form a potentially useful carbon dioxide/hydrogen mixture for chemical synthesis [with concomitant generation of electricity]. This approach has a high impact potential, that is timely due to the only recently developed (by the applicant) high performance anion-exchange ionomeric materials; it is initially aimed at Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1 - 4 in the innovation pipeline. The second specific research focus (targeted at TRLs 1 - 5) is to directly link energy technologies (biological and chemical) to water technologies by: (1) extending the biological fuel cell technologies and knowledge being developed in the Supergen programme [led by Surrey] to self powering desalination systems; and (2) by applying current membranes to, and developing new biofouling resistant electrolyte membranes for, reverse electrodialysis systems. The first involves three chamber cells containing both anion- and cation-exchange systems that can be used for desalination of aqueous salt solutions using biological catalysts and organic waste water streams to self power the systems and where the waste water is also treated with potentially zero grid electricity consumption. The second involves reverse electrodialysis where gradients in salinity are directly utilised to generate renewable electricity (i.e. UK electricity potential where river, brackish and sea waters meet).The research will also benefit from already established UK-China collaborations (resulting from an EPSRC funded Interact grant in 2006) and a newly established cross-disciplinary collaboration with the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.surrey.ac.uk