Sustainable Processing of Energy Materials from Waste
This project aims at developing new processes for waste remanufacturing based on hydrothermal and microwave treatments to yield sustainable products such as advanced carbon materials and chemicals, which in turn could be manufactured into battery devices Hydrothermal or microwave conversion of waste will result in a liquid phase containing important chemicals such as levulinic acid (LA) and 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (5-HMF), which are platform intermediates for a range of products including solvents and precursors of polymers, pharmaceuticals, plasticizers and other biofuels. We will separate these chemicals from the aqueous phase using preparative chromatography and convert them into other useful products using the carbon catalysts produced from the solid phase of the waste conversion. This will thus close the loop in biowaste product utilization. In parallel, we will also use the solid carbon materials to manufacture anode materials for Li and Na ion batteries. We will test the performance of these waste-derived electrodes in half- and, based on the best performant materials, full cells. We will evaluate the environmental impact of the manufacturing of these products at each life cycle, their cost compared with other products on the market, and we will perform multiscale modelling to predict the ability of these processes and products to be upscaled. Our proposed collaborative research activities have the potential to reduce environmental pollution and find new and innovative ways to recycle/remanufacture waste into advanced materials. In addition, the resulting biofuels and batteries from our processes will help the UK achieve its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and introduce more renewables. A team of highly qualified researchers has been brought together for this project, including two top research institutions in the UK (QMUL and UCL) and two in China (Tsinghua and Chinese Academic of Science) and researchers with complementary expertise in hydrothermal and microwave manufacturing, heterogeneous catalysis, biowaste conversion, carbon materials and battery research. This project will train two PDRAs and two PhD students in the UK which will interact closely with two PDRAs in China. This grant will ensure the continuation of long lasting collaborations between the UK and China, will help prevent pollution and waste in both countries, and develop sustainable technologies for manufacturing advanced carbons, chemicals and batteries.