International Fellowship Award from Royal Society for low carbon electrochemical Innovation


Dr Jin Xuan, the Associate Director (Carbon Utilisation Theme) of the Heriot-Watt Research Centre for Carbon Solutions (RCCS) was recently awarded the Kan Tong Po International Fellowship from the Royal Society to support his international collaborative research and establish a long-term academic collaboration between Heriot-Watt University (HWU) and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in the area of low carbon electrochemical materials and processes for efficient low-carbon fuel and chemical production from captured CO2 sources. 

Both UK and Hong Kong have set out overarching climate policies to restrain the global temperature increase. CO2 utilization offers a new solution to offset the economical demerit of CCS by turning emission into fuels or chemicals. Transforming CO2 into value will benefit annual greenhouse gas emission by 3.7 gigatonnes, and has the potential to redefine 10% of current fuels sector as new business opportunities.  Formic acid synthesis via CO2 electrochemical reduction has been identified as one of few viable CO2 utilisation pathways, according to the study by European Joint Research Centre. The formic acid has high potential to be H2 carrier, transportation fuel and platform chemicals.

In the past, the development of CO2 electro-reduction materials and processes were separated efforts by different groups. Dr Xuan’s Kan Tong Po International Fellowship attempts to break such disciplinary boundary by initiating collaboration between electrochemical material scientist (Prof Minhua Shao in HKUST) and low-carbon process engineer (Dr Xuan in HWU), and developing integrated design principles for materials and processes with synergetic effects.

Dr Xuan said:

I am very pleased to receive the Visiting Fellowship from Royal Society, which allows me to focus myself on the interdisciplinary research for future carbon solutions during the one-month academic visit in HKUST, one of the best universities in Asia. With the grant support, we aim to understand the nanomaterial behaviour in real CO2 utilisation processes, and optimise the process that can maximise the performance of bespoke materials. This will be achieved by conducting fundamental research at the interface between microfluidic processes and electrochemistry, across multiple scales going from catalyst nanostructure at molecular scale, to the complex multiphase thermofluids at process level. It won’t be possible to initiate such international and interdisciplinary collaboration without the support from the Royal Society’s unique Visiting Fellowship program. We hope the research will contribute to the realisation of eco-attractive CO2 reduction and utilisation.’’