Award recognition for research on energy materials

Congratulations to Dr Elton Santos who has been awarded the Charles Hatchett Award from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) presents a range of awards, medals and prizes to recognise personal achievement, for published work and for contributions to the profession.  The Charles Hatchett Award is in recognition for the best paper on the science and technology of niobium and its alloys.

Dr Santos is based in the School’s Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems. His research focus on the theory and computational modelling of the chemical and physical properties of energy materials, such as organic-inorganic perovskites, two-dimensional layered compounds, and advanced functional solids for catalysis. His research in novel catalysts predicting the existence of a new type of Niobium(Nb)-based compound (i.e. Nb1+xS2) as well as the explanation of its outstanding catalytic properties for hydrogen evolution (HER) has been recognised with the 2020 Charles Hatchett Award.

Such catalysts can revolutionize the way HER can be performed in real applications, e.g. production of high purity hydrogen for fuel cells. Nb1+xS2 is inexpensive to be fabricated but is as efficient as platinum (Pt), presently the best catalyst for HER but the most expensive. This is a step forward: a non-metal-based catalyst which can be used for different chemical processes involving low-cost materials, which is precisely the holy grail of catalysis. In particular, the findings report large current densities, comparable to those attained in the production of hydrogen using very expensive (£50/g) and scarce catalysts like platinum. With prices going down to a few pennies per gram, this could be a game-changing approach.

Dr Santos’s prize will be awarded at the online 2020 IOM3 Premier Awards ceremony on 3 December 2020.

Charles Hatchett (1765 – 1847) was a wealthy London coachbuilder, amateur scientist, distinguished chemist and the discoverer of niobium in 1801. Niobium (element 41) is used in steels, superalloys, intermetallic materials and Nb alloys, as well as in composites, coatings, nanomaterials, optoelectronic devices and catalysts.