28 September 2010

University of Queensland research is set to bring readily available hydrogen power one step closer to reality.

Dr Yong Wang, from UQ’s School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering has won an $85,000 UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award to increase the efficiency of hydrogen production through the development of powerful new photocatalysts.

The new photocatalysts will also be able to purify water polluted by chemical spills, oil spills and other organic pollutants.

Photocatalysts produce hydrogen by using sunlight to split hydrogen and oxygen from water.

Dr Wang will be working with titanium dioxide which is currently accepted as the most effective photocatalyst.

However, Dr Wang will focus on nanosheets (about one nano-meter thick), which are much thinner and smaller than titanium dioxide particles, which have been the main focus of study to date.

According to Dr Wang, monolayered titanium dioxide nanosheets possess distinctive physiochemical properties in comparison with conventional titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

Dr Wang said that these unique properties can be utilised to enhance the photocatalyst activity of titanium dioxide and make the nanosheets more efficient than current methods of generating hydrogen.

“These kinds of nanosheets are a new type of nanomaterials and therefore not much is known about this emerging technology,” he said.

“My research will therefore focus on understanding the fundamentals of nanosheets and resolving key issues, so they can then be used for practical applications.”

Dr Wang’s research will contribute to significant global efforts to develop hydrogen energy, with the aim of replacing fossil fuels which result in heavy pollution.

Dr Wang has already initiated his research in this field, and is collaborating with Associate Professor Lianzhou Wang and Professor Max Lu’s group at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials and Professor Jin Zou at the UQ School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering.

Dr Wang was presented with his ward at a special ceremony at Customs House on Wednesday, September 22, as part of UQ’s annual Research Week.

The UQ Foundation Research Excellence Awards have been running for 12 years and are an initiative of UQ to recognise outstanding performance and leadership potential in early career researchers.

This year’s awards totaled $910,000.

Dr Wang said he wished to thank the University for the award and funding, which he would use to provide a comprehensive insight to the nanostructures and photocatalytic activities of nanosheets and to help develop high-quality photocatalysts for clean energy and environmental protection.

Dr Wang said he would use the outcomes of his project to seek external funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry, and to attract research students worldwide to develop the new technology.

Media: Dr Yong Wang, ARC Postdoctoral Fellow (+ 61 7 3365 9059 or y.wang4@uq.edu.au) or Kim Jensen, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (+ 61 7 3365 1107 or k.jensen@uq.edu.au).