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A team of researchers from the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) in China, the University of Oxford’s only engineering and physical sciences research institute outside of the UK, has won first place in the regional finals of the ‘Maker in China’ Jiangsu SME Innovation and Entrepreneurship Contest 2022.

OSCAR Building in Suzhou, China

The team was recognised for demonstrating marked savings in hydrogen production costs, using an innovative new catalyst. They will now compete in the competition’s national finals.

Now in its seventh year, the Maker in China contest is run by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ministry of Finance. It has attracted thousands of SMEs and entrepreneurs from across China to showcase innovative technology projects, spurring further engagement and collaboration.

OSCAR’s entry, ‘Single Atom/Nanocluster Catalysts for industrial H2 production’, was chosen from 32 projects that qualified for this year’s final road show in Jiangsu, the province in the east of China where OSCAR is located.

Professor Mauro Pasta, Professor of Applied Electrochemistry in the Department of Materials, who guides OSCAR’s Energy Storage and Conversion Lab, said: ‘This recognition further validates our team’s research direction and is particularly meaningful considering the very ambitious targets that the Chinese government has set in terms of green-hydrogen production.’

Hydrogen production and utilisation facilities rely on the use of a considerable amount of precious metal as catalysts. These typically represent up to about 53% of the total costs of equipment. While precious metal nanoparticle catalysts currently dominate the market, their production involves more than 99% wastage of precious metal raw materials.

The team at OSCAR have developed a single-atom catalyst technology that already represents more than a 50% saving in terms of precious metal raw material use, without compromising catalytic performance. The researchers now have their sights set on realising 90% savings in the near future.

Members of the winning team include:

  • Dr Chenbo Wang, postdoctoral researcher with an Oxford DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Peng Tang Peng, currently in his fourth year of DPhil studies in the Department of Materials
  • Yixuan Guo, postgraduate researcher
  • Xinxin Chen, who joined OSCAR from a senior technician role at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIMTE CAS).

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