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Metal-Modified Nanocomposites Help Produce “Green” Hydrogen

For many years, sustainable catalysts that play a key role in global Energiewende—that is, the phase-out of nuclear and fossil fuelshave been a proven research theme at the University of Bayreuth.

Dr Eranezhuth Wasan Awin, Grantee of the Bayreuth Humboldt Centre, and Dr Günter Motz in a Bayreuth laboratory of ceramic materials. Image Credit: University of Bayreuth/ C. Wißler.

Dr Eranezhuth Wasan Awin from India has been reinforcing interdisciplinary research work in this domain. The young scientist received an invitation from the Bayreuth Humboldt Centre and is currently working on the design of metal-modified nanocomposite fibers through electrospinning.

Serving as catalysts, these nanocomposite fibers can help produce “green” hydrogen from renewable raw materials, and also facilitate its storage.

“Green” hydrogen is currently regarded as a major raw material for the Energiewende. This form of hydrogen is mainly obtained by utilizing the energy produced by wind and solar power plants for splitting water through electrolysis. However, strong catalysts are needed to use or store the energy carrier hydrogen as desired.

Dr Eranezhuth Wasan Awin brings extensive expertise to the domain of ceramic materials to the Bayreuth research project that is aiming to design such catalysts. Dr Awin also works as a research associate at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), which is regarded as one of the most significant universities in the South-Asian region in the field of natural sciences and engineering.

We are very pleased about the close cooperation on the Bayreuth campus and have started to test promising new research ideas together. The cooperation will also help to further strengthen the scientific contacts between the University of Bayreuth and IITM.

Dr Günter Motz, PD, Ceramic Materials Research Group, University of Bayreuth

Professor Dr Rhett Kempe, who holds the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry II, added, “Researching the fundamentals for new catalysts that are recyclable and conserve valuable raw materials has been a focus of my research group for some time, which we now wish to intensify through the increased inclusion of ceramic materials.”

A scholarship from the University of Bayreuth Centre of International Excellence “Alexander von Humboldt” (the Bayreuth Humboldt Centre) supported the research stay of the young Indian scientist.

Electrospinning for High-Performance Ceramic Nano-Composite Fibers

Thin fibers, which measure just a few nanometers, are made of different kinds of molecules and, hence, are known as nanocomposite fibers. Such fibers are currently utilized in a wide range of industrial applications. At the University of Bayreuth, Dr Eranezhuth Wasan Awin is mainly analyzing ceramic nanocomposite fibers created by electrospinning.

Fibers featuring a ceramic framework of silicon carbonitride (SiCN), with transition metal nanoparticles integrated within them, are specifically appropriate for the catalytic control of reactions that contribute to the intermediate storage of hydrogen.

Such metals are, for instance, cobalt, ruthenium, or copper. The goal of the young scientist from India is to particularly improve the structures and properties of these nanocomposite fibers with respect to the catalytic effects envisioned.

Keeping this aspect in mind, Dr Awin is working on new electrospinning processes that allow the accurate production of the desired fiber structures.

State-of-the-art electrospinning technologies are successfully applied in very different research areas on the campus of the University of Bayreuth. I am very pleased that I can use this excellent infrastructure and work together with scientists from very different disciplines - from inorganic chemistry to engineering sciences. Together we want to advance the development of innovative hydrogen technologies.

Dr. Eranezhuth Wasan Awin, Grantee, Bayreuth Humboldt Centre, University of Bayreuth


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