My primary area of research centres on the investigation of the complex interaction between a heterogeneous metal catalyst system and a microwave-induced electric field, and its applications for CO2-free hydrogen production from fossil hydrocarbons and plastics waste recycling.
Microwave-initiated heterogeneous catalysis
We show that the fundamental difference and advance of using microwaves is due to the fact that catalyst particles play two roles simultaneously in the catalytic process under microwave irradiation; First, there is efficient energy transfer from the incoming microwave electromagnetic radiation to initiate the physical heating process (driving force) of the catalyst particle. Secondly, the ensuing catalytic reaction at the particle surface occurs when the particle reaches the necessary temperature. When microwaves interact with catalyst particles, heat is rapidly generated throughout the catalyst particles themselves (these particles have physical dimensions below the characteristic microwave skin depth at the operating frequencies). Moreover, since the microwave heating is itself a function of the electrodynamic properties of the catalyst (i.e. the charge dynamics associated with the susceptibility of the catalyst material), electromagnetic heating is closely connected to the material properties which dictates the heating rate – thereby influencing accompanying the catalytic processes.
Clean hydrogen production from fossil fuels
We utilise microwave science and technology to initiate chemical reactions that selectively breaks C-H bonds in fossil hydrocarbons (include crude oil, diesel and petrol etc.) to produce high-purity hydrogen through the so-called microwave-initiated catalytic dehydrogenation reactions. We have achieved a H2 selectivity from all evolved gases of some 98%, with less than a fraction of a percent of adventitious CO and CO2. Thus, rather than burning hydrocarbons, our vision is to extract high purity, elemental hydrogen, in high yield, from fossil fuels. We hope that this can assist in the transition to a new scientific and technological era of 'Fossil fuels decarbonisation' as a steppingstone to a true low-carbon energy future.
Turning plastics waste to clean hydrogen and high-value carbon materials
We have developed a new, innovative process for the deconstruction of waste -plastic to produce high purity hydrogen fuel and valuable carbon nano-materials. It is based on a novel catalyst system initiated by microwave energy, achieving the rapid release of high-purity hydrogen directly from plastic waste, with the co-product of solid carbon being recycled into value-added materials or otherwise sequestered in perpetuity.
We stand at the beginning of a new era for the utilization of plastics-waste to generate an economically – sustainable and scalable process for generating hydrogen and high-value carbon materials. This is once in a generation opportunity to utilise plastics waste as a resource – a treasure trove – in a new, sunrise industry.
Monomer recycling of plastics waste: towards a circular economy of plastics
We developed an innovative process and novel catalysts for chemically recycling the plastics waste, which types of plastics are difficult to be recycled mechanically, back to its constituent monomers. The process achieves 100% conversion with high selectivity to high value monomers directly from plastics waste.
This new process allows an inspiring vision of a truly Circular Economy for plastics, which not only minimize environmental pollution but also reduce our dependence on non-renewable petrochemicals for plastics production.