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Chemical Engineering

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Yiou Wang

Yiou Wang is currently on a doctorate programme in Dr. Junwang Tang's Solar Energy Group at the Department of Chemical Engineering of UCL after receiving his BSc from Peking University, China in 2014.

Research project

Title: New devices of photocatalytic water splitting.
Photocatalytic methane conversion.

It is an urgent issue to discover ideal alternatives of fuel and chemical feedstock, due to the fast depletion of petroleum in recent decades and the environmental problems caused all over the world. Solar fuel synthesis has attracted substantial interest over the past half century because it has the potential to meet the increasing global energy demand, mitigate GHG emission and provide a solution to the concern about sustainable energy supply. Two systems of solar conversion, one known as photocatalytic H2 production from water, the other known as photocatalytic methane conversion, are considered to be attractive. However to achieve this potential requires significant technological advances.

There are two possible technologies to convert solar energy to fuel; one is by photoelectrochemical device and the other by semiconductor photocatalyst in a suspension system. For photocatalytic overall water splitting, a PEC device produces H2 and O2 on different sides but usually it requires external bias.  A suspension system doesn’t need additional bias but the products are generated as a mixture, after which a following separation procedure must be applied. To make the best of both systems, we designed an innovative and facile device achieve pure water splitting. This simple and cheap device generates H2 and O2 separately without any bias.

Methane is one of the cheapest and most abundant resources in nature as well as the main greenhouse gas.  With petroleum reserves’ consuming, methane has a huge potential to become an alternative in the hydrocarbon feedstock of fuels and chemicals synthesis. However, it requires much energy (e.g. a high temperature) to achieve the conversion of CH4 due to its high stability, which makes the activation unfavourable both thermodynamically and kinetically. Therefore, we esteem the photocatalytic systems as one promising solution, which could realize both down-hill and up-hill reactions at low temperature with the photo energy compensating the increase of Gibbs free energy.

Education

BSc in Chemistry, Peking University, 2014