Open to PhD applications in:
- Redox Flow Battery - synthesis and characterisation of new high-power-density electrolytes
- Separation of critical metals with new sustainable extractants such as ionic liquids
- F-element chemistry and luminescence (lanthanides and actinides) 3) Sodium semi-solid-state batteries - developing electrolytes and devices
- Ionothermal synthesis of polynuclear metal complexes - new approaches for the synthesis of molecular magnets using ionic liquids
- Nanocatalysts for conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons
Generally, we are working in the following areas and can offer PhD topics in: Recovery of Critical Metals: Developing More Sustainable Processes for Recycling and Urban Mining Several metals belong to the group of critical raw materials which have a high risk in the security of supply and economic importance. Rare earth metals, for example, are widespread worldwide, but rarely accumulate in concentrations high enough for economic mining; at the same time, they have widespread usage e.g. in electronics, displays, magnets in hybrid cars and windmills, superconductors, in batteries and as catalysts.
Recycling rates for many critical metals are currently low and involve challenging separation processes using strong acids, harsh conditions and volatile solvents. Ionic liquids have a great potential as alternative and more environmentally benign solvents for the selective rare and precious high-tech metal extraction, separation and processing. We are exploring and evaluating the utilisation of novel functionalised ionic liquids as alternative and environmentally benign separation media, e.g. to efficiently do “urban mining” utilising electronic metal scrap as an industrial waste stream.
Energy Storage: Improving Electrolytes for Efficient Redox Flow Batteries As the demand for and implementation of renewable energy grows, so too does demand for solutions which can store this energy in order to regulate when it is used. Redox Flow Batteries are fast becoming a preferred choice for suppliers, especially for sources of renewable energies. A major cost factor and limitation for the next generation of redox-flow batteries based on vanadium is the electrolyte, which is often the issue for the lower energy densities of VRBs in comparison to other battery types.
Our research into new formulation of electrolytes allows us to significantly improved energy densities, that is currently one of the limitations of these redox-flow battery systems. These electrolytes have also advantages in terms of their low flammability and electrochemical long-term stability. Ionothermal Synthesis: New Pathways to Advanced Functional Materials and Nanomaterials Ionic liquids are expanding their use to new areas such as materials chemistry and crystal engineering. Crystallisation strategies using ionic liquids are quite different from conventional organic solvents.
Ionic liquids are not only replacing conventional solvents, but are also able to act as neutral solvents, templates, reactants or charge compensating species. This opens up alternative synthetic and crystallisation pathways – the synthesis in low-melting salts can be seen in analogy to solid-state synthesis using a salt as a flux. This enables new possibilities for a “gentle” solid state synthesis of inorganic compounds, for example with unusual coordination modes, low oxidation states or stabilisation of metastable compounds.
Public outreach & key achievements
- Prof Nockemann is also the co-founder and director of Queen's University Belfast spin-out company Green Lizard Technologies Ltd., which focusses on delivering technological solutions in the sustainable and clean energy sector.
- As a co-founder and director of Seren Technologies Ltd. he is involved in the knowledge-transfer of a new technology to recycle rare-earth metals.
- Prof Nockemann received 3 IChemE Awards for Innovation and Excellence with the QUILL Research Centre for the first generation ionic liquid systems applied to gas scrubbing, and 2 IChemE awards with Green Lizard Technologies.