MANA-RSC Joint Symposium on Materials for Energy Generation and Storage

At the end of last week I was involved in a short symposium at NIMS, jointly organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry and MANA. It was great to have so many distinguished speakers from various disciplines in the house, and the presentations were very thought-provoking…

MANA-RSC Symposium 2015-10-15 steps

During the symposium, three highlights for me were talks by Fraser Armstrong (Oxford University, UK) and Kohei Uosaki and Yoshitaka Tateyama (both from NIMS). Fraser’s talk, entitled “Electrocatalyst Design Principles – Learning from Enzymes”, was a real eye opener for a solid-state chemist like myself. I’d always thought of enzymes as soft, floppy molecules that had no place in solving the world’s energy problems. But through a combination of state-of-the-art crystallography and surface electrochemistry, his group has discovered many of the fundamental structures responsible for the extraordinarily high activity of enzymes in, for example, water splitting for hydrogen production. The next challenge for synthetic materials chemists like me, he says, is to build materials that have much higher densities of enzyme-like active sites…

Both Uosaki-san and Tateyama-san’s (for why I call my superiors in NIMS by their last name see here) talks addressed some of the issues surrounding lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells. Or more specifically, what really happens when they go wrong and side reaction occur. Uosaki-san’s group has been doing really fundamental chemistry on real working systems, which he said should be part of every researcher’s training. Nowadays though, with the pressure of producing fast results, high quality, in-depth studies are too often overlooked in favour of a quick superficial paper. I would tend to agree…

Tateyama-san’s group uses the latest computational theory to simulate materials and reactions in-silico. They’ve looked at how the SEI forms in batteries, protecting the anode materials from complete destruction at the expense of reducing the capacity. It was awesome to see how, in just the last few years, computing power and the progress of simulation methods has enabled us to watch atoms react and track their every move in order to explain how and why they behave as they do.

Finally, there were some great poster sessions, at which I had some interesting conversations with the other participants. I’m happy to say that my poster was chosen to receive the “Materials Horizons Poster Award”! Here’s a picture of me looking pleased with myself alongside Fiona McKenzie, Executive Editor of the journal Materials Horizons, RSC, and the chair of the conference, Katsuhiko Ariga from MANA:

MANA-RSC Symposium 2015-10-16 Poster Award

Big thanks to Mikiko Tanifuji and Kosuke Tanabe at NIMS Scientific Information Office for help with the poster!

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