Three researchers awarded IChemE Andrew Fellowship

Article by Amanda Jasi

L-R: Alexander O’Malley, Jack Williams and Simon Freakley

ICHEME has awarded three chemical engineering researchers the Andrew Fellowship to advance the field of catalysis.

Established in 2012, the four-year Fellowship commemorates the prestigious work of IChemE Fellow Syd Andrew, a distinguished catalysis expert. Successful candidates each receive a £10,000 (US$13,797) annual stipend, as well as up to £5,000 per year for expenses. They report their findings to the Andrew Fellowship panel to progress through each year, and receive guidance from an IChemE member with significant experience in the field. The Fellowship also aims to foster industry-academe relationships that support innovation.

The 2021 award winners – Simon Freakley, Alexander O’Malley, and Jack Williams – started their projects for new catalysts in June.

Freakley, Lecturer at the University of Bath’s Department of Chemistry, is focussing on developing and testing new catalyst materials that consist of metal nanoparticles with 10–1,000 atoms that can absorb and use light to power a reaction instead of heat. This is called surface plasmon resonance.

He said: “I was delighted to be awarded this fellowship not only because it will allow me to carry out interesting science in the catalysis research field, but also to engage with a leading company in the sector to gain a greater understanding of the wider market and needs of industry.”

O’Malley, Whorrod Research Fellow at the University of Bath, is designing catalysts and catalytic processes from lignin-derived phenolic molecules (plant-based molecular chemical compounds). This is to improve the manufacture of sustainable aromatic chemicals and biofuels for the petrochemicals industry to produce bulk chemicals – such as plastics, solvents, resins and paints – as well as fine chemicals for fragrances and pharmaceuticals that are in high commercial demand.

Using various classical heterogenous catalysis simulations, and working closely with leaders in petrochemicals, O’Malley seeks to understand how the phenolic molecules behave and change composition at a range of scales when they react with zeolite catalysts.

He commented: “The Fellowship is a fantastic opportunity to enable stronger links with industry and increase the influence of my research. Along with the financial support, the incorporation of an IChemE Fellow as a mentor is immensely valuable. To have a mentor with decades of experience in the chemical industry to guide my research priorities from a commercial, engineering and economic point of view will be absolutely crucial to maximising its impact, and I’m sure this will develop the way I approach research hugely from here on in.”

Williams is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Magnetic Resonance Research Centre (MRRC) at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. The Fellowship is supporting his research into polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyser cells (ECs) and related PEM fuel cells (FCs), used in the production of green hydrogen for electricity. He will apply both nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to these cells to study their reactions with water and hydrogen gas molecules, aiming to optimise the cell design for sustainable energy production.

Williams said he is “very grateful to the panel for awarding me the Andrew Fellowship. I am excited to begin research in an exciting and fast-moving field that is receiving so much recent interest. The Fellowship will facilitate my ability to share my research with others in the field through conferences and lab visitations, which will hopefully serve to accelerate the research.”

Chris Hardacre, Chair of IChemE’s Andrew Fellowship Panel, congratulated the award recipients, adding:

“IChemE is keen to support chemical engineers, academia, and industry across the world in helping to advance research, innovations, and solutions to produce products that people rely on every day. This Fellowship is one great example of how this support is cultivated.

“My fellow panel members and I look forward to seeing the regular updates and results of each of your research as it develops.”

Applications for the 2022 Andrew Fellowship are open to researchers around the world. Interested parties can find out more information about the Fellowship, its criteria, and apply on the IChemE website.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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