Pictured are George (left) and Maerthe (right) participating in our Chinese New Year event
During my PhD studies at Cambridge, I was given the opportunity to visit CARES for a month for some experimental work in collaboration with Asst Prof Liu Wen (Paul) and Xianyue Wu. I am in my second year of PhD research, which is currently investigating carbon dioxide hydrogenation to methanol, in the context of carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). Given methanol’s stability as a liquid at ambient conditions, it is easier to transport from remote carbon capture locations than gaseous carbon dioxide. Moreover, the widespread downstream uses of methanol (e.g. as a precursor to high-performance plastics or as a fuel) provide further motivation for hydrogenating captured carbon dioxide to methanol. However, the catalysts for methanol synthesis from carbon dioxide are non-optimal, and a clear picture to understand catalyst activity remains lacking.
My work examines catalysts for methanol synthesis which combine with copper three different metal oxide supports – zinc oxide, zirconia, or ceria – for which the experimental capabilities at CARES have been invaluable. I was able to use the in-situ diffuse reflectance infrared spectroscopy equipment to probe the reactive intermediates on the catalysts through their vibrational responses to infrared irradiation, and I was able to use the chemisorption analyser to study the capacity and strength of hydrogen and carbon dioxide adsorption upon the catalysts. These results have yielded interesting new insights and allowed me to develop a clearer explanation for the activity results I have previously measured in Cambridge.
I had a very enjoyable time during my stay in Singapore, which also allowed me to visit Malaysia and Indonesia too during my time here. I managed to travel, and eat, my way around most of the island, making some new friends along the way too. Many thanks to the admin team for helping to organise my stay, to Sim for ensuring I always had enough liquid nitrogen and gases, to Xianyue for her help with the lab equipment, and to Paul for the very useful discussions. I hope to work with CARES again in the future.
George Fulham, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge
After graduating from RWTH Aachen with a Master’s in mechanical engineering, I strive for further academic research activities. However, before settling down for a PhD project, I aimed for more international research experience, expanding my academic and personal network as well as exploring foreign cultures. Thankfully, I found all of this during my 2-month research stay at Cambridge CARES in Singapore.
Having studied mechanistic model building for reaction kinetics as part of my computational master thesis project, I investigated kinetic models for a pharmaceutical reaction as part of the prestigious Pharmaceutical Innovation Project Singapore (PIPS) of Prof Alexei Lapkin’s group at CARES. Fortunately, I was introduced to experimental work in the lab, so that I learned to set up my own experiments and collect the required data. I noticed how satisfying it is to work on the whole workflow, from using different equipment in the lab to conduct experiments, generating data and finally assessing kinetic models. This experience in a chemical lab motivates me to combine experimental challenges with computational tasks in my further research activities.
Moreover, I am grateful for the support provided by the CARES team and appreciate their warm welcome. The international group of corporate staff and Interdisciplinary researchers create a highly motivating research atmosphere including inspiring discussions and creating social activities such as celebrating Chinese New Year at CARES, competing in board games and making fabulous culinary discoveries in the multicultural environment. Time certainly flies but it was a great pleasure to gain plenty of rewarding experiences in the two months at CARES.
Maerthe Tillmann, Masters graduate from RWTH Aachen
C4T occasionally hosts internships (usually for undergraduate or graduate students studying a Chemical Engineering or Engineering programme). If you are interested in applying for an internship with us, in the first instance please send your CV and a brief description of why you are interested in an internship with C4T to firstname.lastname@example.org.