The University of Southern Queensland’s Dr Lei Ge has been awarded government funding to explore carbon dioxide (CO2) as a viable renewable carbon resource.
The Australian Research Council (ARC) this week welcomed the decision by Minister for Education Jason Clare MP to provide $94 million in funding for new Future Fellows in 2022.
The scheme awards outstanding mid-career researchers with funding support for the next four years to undertake innovative research in exciting areas with potential national benefits.
Nano materials researcher Dr Ge, based at the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Future Materials, received more than $813,000 to develop electrochemical conversion technologies to convert CO2 into globally-needed chemicals and fuels.
“CO2 is commonly known as a greenhouse gas that causes problems for the environment and substantially contributes to climate change,” Dr Ge said.
“However, it actually can be an important storage intermediate and feedstock for sustainable chemical manufacturing, producing a variety of fuel and chemicals ranging from hydrocarbons to oxygenates.
“This research aims to establish a fundamental understanding of critical but poorly known mass transfer and reaction mechanisms in the CO2 electrochemical reduction reaction, and use this to design new gas diffusion electrodes (GDE).”
GDEs are electrical conductors with a solid, liquid and gaseous interface alongside a CO2 active catalyst layer, used in technologies such as fuel cells to create an electrochemical reaction between chemical elements to create energy.
The new funding will allow Dr Ge, who is part of a research team headed by Professor John Bell and Professor Hao Wang, to build on his existing research in which he has developed a series of highly-active electrocatalysts and GDEs via membrane microstructure design and catalyst engineering.
“It targets bottleneck issues in managing the gas-liquid-solid reaction sites and improving the conversion efficiency of reactor, through the synthesis of advanced electrode materials, understanding of mass transfer and the engineering design of an electrochemical reactor,” he said.
“The expected outcomes will promote carbon neutral goals, bridge the renewable energy storage and sustainable chemical manufacturing gap, thus addressing key challenges faced by Australia and the world.”
Centre for Future Materials is part of the University’s Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences.