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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V029053/1
Title: Advanced Functional Materials Spectroscopy: Lab-based X-ray Absorption
Principal Investigator: Beaumont, Dr SK
Other Investigators:
Lancaster, Professor T Hatton, Professor PD Evans, Professor JSO
Coleman, Professor K Taylor, Dr RA Evans, Professor IR
Gallant, Professor AJ Bain, Professor CD Dyer, Professor PW
Johnston, Dr KE Groves, Professor C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
easyXAFS, LLC Hiden Analytical Ltd
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2021 Ends: 31 January 2025 Value (£): 690,857
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Electrochemical Science & Eng.
Energy Storage Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2020 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel November 2020- Panel 2 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Technology based on fundamental research into functional materials has transformed the world in which live, and it will continue to do so. Energy materials are critical components in fuel cells and batteries (the rapidly growing global market for Li-ion batteries alone is anticipated to be worth £84 bn by 2025). New, cleaner, more efficient catalysts are essential for greening existing processes as well as new ones for non-fossil-fuel based routes to essential chemicals (the catalyst market is worth around £19.5 bn/yr and growing at 4.5% pa). The equipment proposed will increase productivity in strategic UK research areas such as Energy Storage and Catalysis that require understanding of these materials' chemical and structural properties.

X-ray absorption spectroscopy is a technique used to measure the oxidation state (chemical information) and local co-ordination environment (structural information) properties of a material. X-ray techniques are especially valuable in probing the working state of materials because they can penetrate deep into working samples/devices.

This technique has typically been performed at synchrotron x-ray sources, such as Diamond Light Source in the UK. Recent advances in the hardware available (x-ray sources, optics and detectors) have been exploited to develop laboratory x-ray absorption spectrometers (including one that is commercially available), which now have sufficient x-ray power to enable many experiments to be performed in the laboratory. Such spectrometers are ideal for experiments that do not need high time or spatial resolution (available only at heavily oversubscribed synchrotron sources), especially operando measurements on a working battery or catalyst, where the time is determined by the process and not the x-ray source. Such equipment, while available in Germany or the USA, isn't currently available in the UK and would complement the facilities already available at Diamond. Through this project to procure, commission and operate a laboratory-source x-ray absorption spectrometer (and complementary equipment), we will meet a key need of the UK functional materials research community for wider availability of XAS to support research in strategic areas.

The new facility will be housed in the Chemistry Department at Durham University, which has a strong track-record in x-ray science and interactions with industry. The EasyXAFS300 would complement other x-ray facilities in Durham, as well as recent investments in catalysis (£1.1m DU Integrated Chemical Reaction Facility) and materials (£0.75m DU COAST Nanolab). The investigator team span a wide range of disciplines (e.g. solid state chemistry, batteries, catalysis, condensed matter physics, nano-scale engineering) and so will act as advocates and representatives within diverse UK science communities - as demonstrated by the range of letters of support provided. Both Durham and external users in other universities and companies have already indicated interest in using the instrument for a wide range of applications - some examples include:

i) Metal nanoparticle catalysts for biomass conversion.

ii) Zeolite catalysts for methane activation.

iii) Single atom / cluster catalysts for fine chemicals production.

iv) C-H bond activation in Mn(I) catalysts.

v) Cs co-ordination environment in supported commercial catalysts.

vi) Ni based catalysts for dry and steam reforming.

vii) Characterisation of carbide, nitride and carbonitride transition metal catalysts.

viii) Structure and oxidation state of ceria catalysts for environmental applications

ix) Oxide ion conductors in solid oxide fuel cells.

x) Electrode materials for Na-ion batteries.

xi) Skyrmion chiral magnets for next generation data storage media.

xii) 3D-Graphene foams (synthesized with metal salts) for filtration and pollution control.

xiii) Fe, Mn and Cu in stain removal and malodour control.

xiv) PtCu nanowires in gas sensing arrays.

Key Findings
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