“I want method to be utilised, not stored in a drawer”

Uppsala University

With the possibility to counteract climate change, Robin Dürr sees the direct application and impact of his research, and how it could be beneficial for society.

Photograph: Robin Dürr

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?

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