Dr Enrico Andreoli

My area of research is low carbon energy and the environment, with a motivating vision of safely transiting to a sustainable, affordable, and secure energy future. My research group and I work to develop new materials and technologies to clean the air from carbon dioxide (CO2), the predominant gas responsible for global warming and climate change. We develop materials to capture and separate CO2 not only from power plants, steelworks, cement production emissions, but also directly from the air. With international collaborators, we develop the technology necessary to apply such materials and engineering systems capable to clean CO2 off emissions. We then take the CO2 and look at methods to convert it into something useful. We develop catalysts able to combine CO2, water, and energy into the chemical blocks required to make fertilisers, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and plastics of critical importance to modern society.

The character of my research is predominantly experimental. Our work is laboratory-based, materials are prepared (synthesised), checked (characterised), and used (tested) in controlled conditions to advance the knowledge essential to deliver a breakthrough in the field. The key disciplines involved are chemistry, materials science and engineering. We also collaborate with computational researchers who help us understand the behaviours of our materials by applying mathematical methods. Combining experiment with theory allows to better understand how to improve our materials.

We do research in chemistry laboratories with state-of-the-art experimental equipment. The Creativity Fellow will have access to fume cupboards, hardware to run chemical experiments with solids, liquids, and gasses, and a suite of advanced instruments. These include high temperature tubular furnaces (to synthesise carbon nanomaterials, for example), potentiostats (to electrodeposit metals like copper, silver, etc.), scanning electron microscopes (to image materials at the micro and nanoscale), Raman spectrometry (to perform molecular identification), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (to analyse the chemical nature of solid surfaces). Access to other facilities is also possible through my collaborators such as Dr Bjornar Sandnes, director of the Complex Flow Lab at Swansea University, who can provide access to various imaging instruments (microscopy, high resolution cameras, high-speed (slow-motion) camera, thermal imaging), various flow cells, basic 3D printing, granular materials of all shapes and sizes.

Bjornar and I already have some experience in collaborating in creative productions including “A Highway in State Space” by composer and noise artist Maja Ratkje with visual imagery contributed by B. Sandnes et al. (Part of “The Sound of Science featuring Jeffrey Zeigler” concert and album). I was also involved in the production of “Be tradition” a short film about the sustainable use of carbon dioxide. We are both excited by the further creative possibilities within our field. Could an artist use our materials, for example, to create murals, paintings or sculptures that absorbed CO2?

My research often involves international links and collaborations. In particular, I collaborate with researchers in the US including Rice University, University of Texas A&M, University of South Carolina, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, Idaho National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. I also collaborate with industries with an international presence such as Tata Steel, Apache Corporation and Tarmac. I also work with small and start-up companies like Mimest, a metal injection moulding company based in Italy, and Skytree, one of the few European direct air capture companies based in The Netherlands.

My research has immediate impact. There is an urgent need for technical solutions to global warming and climate change. One of this is called Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) a terminology used to identify all those solutions developed and deployed to clean the environment from carbon dioxide. My research impacts directly on CCUS since I aim to develop better materials and technologies to capture and use CO2.