Research Overview

Extraction and Separation of Critical Metals

Developing More Sustainable Separation Processes for Recycling and Urban Mining

Our lab is pioneering sustainable extraction and separation of critical metals, shaping the future of metal recycling and urban mining. We’re exploring ionic liquids as eco-friendly alternatives for processing rare and high-tech metals. Our vision involves efficient “urban mining” from electronic scrap and industrial waste, contributing to a circular economy. We’re investigating hydrometallurgical processes to optimize extraction and separation techniques, leading to low-energy methodologies. Our goal is a future of “circular hydrometallurgy,” minimizing energy consumption and environmental impact, creating a sustainable, closed-loop system for handling critical metals, and promoting sustainable industrial practices for a greener future. More…

Liquid lanthanide complexes (left), a switchable cobalt-containing ionic liquid (right).

Redox Flow Battery Research

Advancing Energy Storage: Redox Flow Batteries and the Promise of Sustainable Electrolytes

At our lab, we are at the forefront of innovative research on Redox Flow Batteries (RFBs), with a particular emphasis on Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries (VRFBs). Our goal is to enhance energy storage solutions, a critical component in the adoption of renewable energy. Our research is centered around the formulation of new electrolytes, a strategy that has led to significant improvements in energy densities, traditionally a limitation in RFBs. We are also investigating the potential of non-vanadium-based electrolytes, utilizing more abundant elements like iron, to create a more sustainable and accessible solution. Our preliminary studies show promising results. In addition, we have developed an open-source, low-cost, customizable 3D-printed test cell to address the challenges of cost and reliability. More…

Schematic view of a vanadium redox flow battery (© P.N.).

Ionic Liquids and Ionothermal Synthesis

Designing Liquids with New Properties – From Fundamentals to Applications

We are exploring the exciting potential of ionic liquids in inorganic and materials chemistry. We’re investigating metal-containing ionic liquids with unique magnetic, catalytic, or spectroscopic properties, and functionalized ionic liquids as versatile reaction media for creating novel inorganic compounds and coordination polymers. We’re also delving into ionothermal synthesis, using ionic liquids for low-temperature solid-state synthsis of inorganic compounds with uncommon properties. Furthermore, we’re leveraging ionic liquids’ unique capabilities in the synthesis of semiconductor nanocrystals for solar energy conversion. Our research aims to understand these liquids fundamentally and apply this knowledge to advance inorganic and materials chemistry. More…

Examples of our research on ionic liquids.


Technology and Knowledge Transfer

Driving Sustainable Innovation through Academic Entrepreneurship

As a director at Queen’s University Belfast spin-out company, Green Lizard Technologies Ltd., and Ionic Technologies, I’m committed to the practical application and commercialization of research innovations in clean energy and green chemistry. We’re uncovering new applications, scaling up processes, and commercializing innovations in energy storage, vegetable oil refinement, waste valorisation, and plastics recycling. Our research on rare earth metal separation led to the formation of start-up company Seren Technologies, now Ionic Technologies, which is transitioning from pilot-scale recycling of magnets to an industrial scale, highlighting the intersection of research and real-world solutions. More…

Pilot plants for scale-up (Green Lizard Technologies Ltd).