• Room 02.103 - David Keir Building

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

1) Nanocatalysts for activation and conversion of CO2
2) Redox Flow Battery - synthesis and characterisation of new high-power-density electrolytes; cell design with 3D printing
3) Materials synthesis - nanomaterials, composites and energy materials
3) Sodium semi-solid-state batteries - developing electrolytes and devices
4) Separation of rare earth metals with new sustainable extractants
5) Ionothermal synthesis of polynuclear metal complexes - new approaches for the synthesis of molecular magnets


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Focus

Professor in Inorganic and Materials Chemistry, Director of Research. I joined Queen's University Belfast, UK, as a lecturer on an RCUK fellowship in 2008 and became a Senior Lecturer in Inorganic and Materials Chemistry in 2016. Since 2018, I'm the Director of Research. In 2019, I became full professor (Chair in Inorganic Chemistry). I'm also co-founder and director of QUB spin-out company Green Lizard Technologies Ltd., which focusses on delivering technological solutions in the sustainable and clean energy sector. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. My research group is focussed on ionic liquids, energy storage and sustainable metal separation.

Research Interests

Ionothermal Synthesis

New Pathways to Advanced Functional Materials and Nanomaterials

Ionic liquids are expanding their use to new areas such as materials chemistry and crystal engineering. Crystallisation strategies using ionic liquids are quite different from conventional organic solvents. Ionic liquids are not only replacing conventional solvents, but are also able to act as neutral solvents, templates, reactants or charge compensating species. This opens up alternative synthetic and crystallization pathways – the synthesis in low-melting salts can be seen in analogy to solid-state synthesis using a salt as a flux. However, the temperatures for ionothermal synthesis are significantly lower ranging from room temperature up to ca. 500 K, which enables new possibilities for a “gentle” solid state synthesis of inorganic compounds, for example with unusual coordination modes, low oxidation states or stabilisation of metastable compounds.

Extraction and Separation of Critical Metals

Developing More Sustainable Separation Processes for Recycling and Urban Mining

Several metals belong to the group of critical raw materials which have a high risk in the security of supply and economic importance. Rare earth metals, for example, are widespread worldwide, but rarely accumulate in concentrations high enough for economic mining; at the same time, they have widespread usage e.g. in electronics, displays, magnets in hybrid cars and windmills, superconductors, in batteries and as catalysts. Recycling rates for many critical metals are currently low and involve challenging separation processes using strong acids, harsh conditions and volatile solvents. Ionic liquids have a great potential as alternative and more environmentally benign solvents for the selective rare and precious high-tech metal extraction, separation and processing. We are exploring and evaluating the utilisation of novel functionalised ionic liquids as alternative and environmentally benign separation media, e.g. to efficiently do “urban mining” utilising electronic metal scrap as an industrial waste stream.

Energy Storage

Improving Electrolytes for Efficient Redox Flow Batteries

As the demand for and implementation of renewable energy grows, so too does demand for solutions which can store this energy in order to regulate when it is used. Redox Flow Batteries are fast becoming a preferred choice for suppliers, especially for sources of renewable energies. Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries have advantages over other systems due to their scalability, lifespan, the immediate energy release, excellent charge retention (up to 1 year), and the ability to discharge 100% with no damage. A major cost factor and limitation for the next generation of redox-flow batteries based on vanadium is the electrolyte, which is often the issue for the lower energy densities of VRBs in comparison to other battery types. Our research into new formulation of electrolytes allows us to significantly improved energy densities, that is currently one of the limitations of these redox-flow battery systems. These electrolytes have also advantages in terms of their low flammability and electrochemical long-term stability.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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