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Sustainable Energy Landscape

The development of alternative clean energy technologies and greener processes to produce chemicals is driven by the growing need to curb reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon footprint. With any conversion processes, especially those that involve aqueous environments, there exist fundamental challenges such as 1) maximizing activity (rate of generation of products of interest), 2) selectivity to these products, and 3) longevity and reliability towards maintaining continuous, sustained operations. These challenges often arise from interactions at interfaces, including both (electro) chemical reactions and physical interactions, occurring at distinct length-scales and timescales. Deciphering the mechanisms underlying these interactions is critical to designing improved and long-lasting sustainable energy and chemical generation systems. 

We are interested in studying these fundamental physico-chemical interactions at interfaces to optimize conversion and longevity in sustainable energy generation systems, drawing fundamental knowledge from many disciplines, including surface and interfacial science, wetting, fluid mechanics, electrochemistry, reaction engineering and catalysis. By segmenting the study of complex interfacial interactions into simpler interfaces, and specifically tuning physical interfacial processes as well as (electro) chemical reactions, we endeavour to have a far-ranging impact in many industrial sectors. Specific topics we are interested in include:

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Enhancing CO2 Capture, Conversion and Storage


Over the past several years, the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has risen at an alarming rate. Numerous approaches have been proposed to tackle growing CO2 levels: from minimizing the consumption of fossil fuels to capturing and sequestering CO2. We are interested in fundamentally studying CO2 capture (in both solid and liquid absorbents) and identifying key mechanisms and rate-limiting steps, and addressing conversion challenges with interfacial engineering. Particularly, electrochemical conversion of CO2 will be studied wherein the limited solubility of CO2 can increase co-evolution of hydrogen and reduce the Faradaic efficiency of valuable C1 and C2 products over time. Similarly of interest is efficient (electro)catalytic conversion of N2.

Interfacial Engineering to Reduce Corrosion, Hydrogen Embrittlement and Scale Formation


Energy storage presents numerous materials challenges, particularly the development of robust materials of construction and coatings for hydrogen and liquid fuel storage systems. Corrosion, for example, is a detrimental process that can impact the performance and lifetime of many infrastructural systems that transport and store energy-carriers, as well as hydropower equipment which also have biofouling and erosion challenges. Similarly, hydrogen embrittlement is another undesirable process by which hydrogen gas can dissociate and diffuse into walls of storage equipment, thereby reducing strength and resulting in sudden catastrophic failure. We are interested in developing composite coatings with both hard and soft features that can fundamentally disrupt and reduce corrosion, hydrogen embrittlement and fouling towards ensuring long term protection.

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Understanding and Tuning Surface Chemistry and Morphology


Surface chemistry and morphology can impact the wettability of materials and interfacial interactions. We are interested in tracking the evolution of thin-film ceramics with various dopants to study how changes in surface stoichiometry can impact the wettability, and factors that can affect surface energy. We are also interested in developing attractive micro-and-nano textures using various fabrication methods for applications in wettability, catalysis and phase-change heat transfer. More broadly, we expect our fundamental work on the role of surface chemistry relaxations on wettability will be of interest in various fields ranging from theoretical and experimental studies to material synthesis.

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