“I want the method to be utilised, not stored in a drawer”
Hi there, Robin Dürr, a PhD student in physical chemistry. With your novel and patented method to fabricate a membrane electrode assembly, you hope to accelerate the use of electrochemical cells and hence the transition to renewable energy sources. What’s the thing about a so-called membrane electrode assembly (MEA)?
“In order to tackle climate-change we need to transit from fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewables. With electrochemical cells we can store the surplus of solar energy into energy carriers like hydrogen, which can be utilised to generate electricity when needed. At the heart of such cells is most often a MEA.”
Why is there a need for a new process to fabricate MEA?
“The commonly followed route to fabricate such a MEA has special requirements to membranes used, which inhibits a number of membrane materials from being employed. So, despite having great scientists out there developing new and high-performing membranes, many of these membranes could not be implemented so far in electrochemical cells. Since I too was working with a membrane material not possible to be used with the established procedure, I realised I had to come up with a new way. Actually, the new method struck me while I was daydreaming about the assembling process.”
How could your innovative method make a positive difference?
“Since the currently used membranes in MEAs are expensive, I believe that my method will offer the implementation of other, less expensive membranes and hence will decrease the costs of such electrochemical cells. This could lead to an acceleration of their widespread usage, which is critical in our current global situation. Furthermore, I can imagine novel membranes could be developed with parameters adjusted to this new method, which might further increase the performance and efficiency of such electrochemical cells and would help us counteracting climate change more effectively.”
You have a published patent application, what comes next?
“I would like the method to be utilised and not stored in the drawer to retain the monopoly of the current process, so the next step is to enter discussions with companies working with membrane electrode assemblies. For me this is also the perfect opportunity to get in touch with companies and identify, which one could be interesting for a collaboration or a future career in industry.”
Lastly, what drives you in your work?
“Curiosity and seeing the positive impact my work could have on our way to a prosperous future. Having the chance to shape our future is a huge motivation for me.”
Robin Dürr has conducted his PhD in a project with funding from European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765376.