The majority of our funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Science Research council (EPSRC). Professor Ian Metcalfe has been recently awarded  European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant funding of 2m Euros for a new research proposal.

At the moment our group is involved in the following funded projects:

From membrane material synthesis to fabrication and function (SynFabFun)


Membranes offer exciting opportunities for more efficient, lower energy, more sustainable separations and even entirely new process options - and so are a valuable tool in an energy constrained world. However, high performance polymeric, inorganic and ceramic membranes all suffer from problems with decay in performance over time, through either membrane ageing (membrane material relaxation) and/or fouling (foreign material build-up in and/or on the membrane), and this seriously limits their impact.

Our vision is to create membranes which do not suffer from ageing or fouling, and for which separation functionality is therefore maintained over time. We will achieve this through a combination of the synthesis of new membrane materials and fabrication of novel membrane composites (polymeric, ceramic and hybrids), supported by new characterisation techniques.

Our ambition is to change the way the global membrane community perceives performance. Through the demonstration of membranes with immortal performance, we seek to shift attention away from a race to achieve ever higher initial permeability, to creation of membranes with long-term stable performance which are successful in industrial application.



Energy and the Physical Sciences: Advanced materials for thermo-chemical oxygen storage and production

 (04/2013 - 03/2016 - £265,897)

In this proposal we intend to take a novel approach to problems involving reaction and/or separation. We adopt the ideas of high temperature chemical looping and apply them at intermediate temperature by developing and investigating new, advanced materials capable of acting as solid state oxygen carriers. This approach would be applicable to a wide range of processes; here we intend to begin by demonstrating its validity through autothermal reforming of oxygenates and oxygen production. More advanced materials open up new areas of application owing to the ability to tailor their chemistry and structure to change both the thermodynamics and kinetics of oxygen transfer. We will also work across many scales to link the fundamental chemistry of the materials to their oxygen transfer characteristics, facilitating a rational approach to materials design. This feedback between the fundamental chemistry and the process engineering is a unique feature of this proposal. Simple metal oxides and mixtures, and mixed metal oxide anion conducting materials, e.g. LSCF (a perovskite) and lanthanum-nickelates/cobaltates (a Ruddlesdon Popper structure), will be examined to determine their usefulness in oxygen donor/chemical looping processes. The latter materials offer a starting point for material design since they are amenable to substitution with other cations allowing the chemical potential of their oxygen sources/sinks to be tuned. In parallel we will also screen, making use of energetics available from publicly available data bases and via targeted first principles using DFT calculations, for novel materials suitable for reforming and oxygen production processes.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub

(04/2012 - 04/2017 - £405,099)

EPSRC is contributing £265,099; Newcastle University is contributing £140,000.

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (HFC) SUPERGEN Hub seeks to address a number of key issues facing the hydrogen and fuel cells sector specifically: (i) to evaluate and demonstrate the role of hydrogen and fuel cell research in the UK energy landscape, and to link this to the wider landscape internationally, and (ii) to identify, study and exploit the impact of hydrogen and fuel cells in low carbon energy systems. Such systems will include the use of HFC technologies to manage intermittency with increased penetration of renewables, supporting the development of secure and affordable energy supplies for the future. Both low carbon transport (cars, buses, boat/ferries) and low carbon heating/power systems employing hydrogen and/or fuel cells have the potential to be important technologies in our future energy system, benefiting from their intrinsic high efficiency and ability to use a wide range of low to zero carbon fuel stocks. One major drive for the Hub is to contribute to technology development that will help the UK to meet its ambitious carbon emissions targets. We will also link the academic research base with industry, from companies with global reach through to SMEs and technology start-ups, to ensure effective and appropriate translation of research to support wealth and job creation for UK plc, and with local and national government to inform policy development. The Hub will champion the complete landscape in hydrogen and fuel cells research, both within the UK and internationally, via networks, knowledge exchange and stakeholder (including outreach) engagement, community building, and education, training and continuous professional development. This is a collaborative project between 11 academic and industrial partners. (EP/J016454/1) 

Multi-scale in-situ characterisation of degradation and reactivity in solid oxide fuel cells

(01/2012-06/2015 - £148,312)

Fuel cells are one of the key technologies to be used for energy generation in a low carbon economy, offering the highest known efficiency for converting fuels into electricity. To facilitate their widespread deployment a thorough understanding of the basic science behind the complex processes occurring under operating conditions is required. In this project new techniques for the in-situ characterisation of fuel cells under realistic operating conditions will be developed, which will yield unique and valuable insights into the dynamics of cell operation, materials degradation processes over a range of length scales therefore, working in partnership with industry collaborators, will enable durability to be improved to the levels needed for mass market operation. This is a collaborative project between Newcastle University, Imperial College London, UCL and St. Andrews University.  (EP/J000892/1)

Micro- and nano-patterned electrodes for the study and control of spillover processes in catalysis

(12/2009-08/2013 - £462,031)

This is collaborative project between the Schools of Chemical Engineering and Electrical and Electronics Engineering in Newcastle University and the Department of Chemical Engineering in the University of Manchester. This project exploits recent advances in techniques used in the micro- and nano- fabrication of semiconductor devices to fabricate and evaluate families of model catalysts and is motivated by the need to study the catalyst-support boundary and its role in heterogeneous catalysis in order to improve our understanding of heterogeneous catalytic systems under real 'high pressure' operating conditions. In order to be able to probe the interfacial region between support and catalyst electrochemically we will work with structured catalysts in the form of continuous electrodes deposited on an oxide solid-electrolyte support.(EP/G025649/1)

Ceramic membranes for energy applications and CO2 capture (Platform grant)

(04/2009-04/2014 - £603,429)

Following a long and successful collaboration with the group of Prof. Kang Li (Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London), both groups were awarded a Platform Grant to maintain the momentum of the research into microtubular oxygen transport membranes for applications such as; oxygen separation, synthesis gas production, methane combustion, steam reforming of methane and Water-Gas shift for hydrogen production and carbon dioxide capture.(EP/G012865/1)

SUPERGEN: Delivery of Sustainable Hydrogen

(10/2008-03/2013 - £4,913,990 )

A consortium of groups based at 13 universities looking at aspects of; hydrogen production, storage, safety and the socio-economic impact of using hydrogen as an energy vector.  The work at Newcastle is primarily focused on hydrogen production from electroceramic membrane and chemical looping based processes using perovskite mixed conducting oxides. (EP/G01244X/1)

Single Pore Engineering for Membrane Development SPEED

(02/2013 - 02/2018 – €2.08 million)

Mankind needs to innovate to deliver more efficient, environmentally-friendly and increasingly intensified processes. The development of highly selective, high temperature, inorganic membranes is critical for the introduction of the novel membrane processes that will promote the transition to a low carbon economy and result in cleaner, more efficient and safer chemical conversions. However, high temperature membranes are difficult to study because of problems associated with sealing and determining the relatively low fluxes that are present in most laboratory systems (fluxes are conventionally determined by gas analysis of the permeate stream). Characterisation is difficult because of complex membrane microstructures. These problems can be avoided by adopting an entirely new approach to membrane materials selection and kinetic testing through a pioneering study of permeation in single pores of model membranes. Firstly, model single pore systems will be designed and fabricated; appropriate micro-analytical techniques to follow permeation will be developed. Secondly, these model systems will be used to screen novel combinations of materials for hybrid membranes and to determine kinetics with a degree of control not previously available in this field. Thirdly, the improved understanding of membrane kinetics will be used to guide real membrane design and fabrication. Real membrane performance will be compared to model predictions and the impact of the new membranes on the process design will be investigated. If successful, an entirely new approach to membrane science will be developed and demonstrated. New membranes will be developed facilitating the adoption of new processes addressing timely challenges such as the production of high purity hydrogen from low-grade reducing gases, carbon dioxide capture and the removal of oxides of nitrogen from oxygen-containing exhaust streams. (ERC-2012-ADG, PE8)


Other funding

We currently have one PhD Case studentship sponsored by the Centre for Process Innovation, Wilton (CPI) in the area of Hydrogen Storage. Click here for more information on this project

Some of our PhD projects are also funded by the EPSRC via the doctoral training accounts. We also have three students funded by the Malaysian government, one student is funded by the Turkish government and one student funded by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR).