Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation » The MacDiarmid Institute
Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation

Our research

Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation

Capturing energy for the future

There are a couple of things to think about with energy - first we want to make and store energy then we want to try to remediate CO2 from our use of fossil fuels. Our focus is to make advances in all these areas.

Overview

In this research theme, our Investigators use new materials technology to explore novel ways to capture and store energy and to absorb greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal is to take new energy solutions to the nation and the world to help create a more sustainable future. A unifying thread of the research is the use of earth-abundant, non-toxic components.

Our research objectives

Objective 1: Solar photovoltaics

The sun provides more than enough energy to meet the world’s energy needs, but current solar technologies are either too inefficient or too expensive to capture enough. Our first objective is to fully understand photovoltaics and develop new materials and new fabrication technologies to create high efficiency and low cost methods to harness solar energy. We are well on our way to achieving this objective.

Objective 2: Sustainability

The second objective is to develop metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) so we can create new materials capable of gas storage and remediation, ie the absorption of greenhouse gas emissions.

The challenges we’re facing - climate change, fresh water, plastics in the environment, waste - cannot be solved with today’s technology; we must innovate. We need new Solar PVs, wind turbines, batteries, renewable fuels, fertilisers, waste, even new ways of powering computers and data centres. All of these innovations depend upon materials science.

Professor Justin Hodgkiss MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator Co-director of the MacDiarmid Institute Victoria University of Wellington
Materials for Energy Capture

Our projects

Below is an introduction to projects we are working in within this research theme.

Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics are used to generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun. Printable photovoltaic technology is already being field-tested. This technology is created with methods not dissimilar to how you make a potato chip bag, albeit a more expensive bag that is multi-layered, but it can be fabricated in a similar way. We can see printable photovoltaic technology having a significant role to play in New Zealand industry.

Light harvesting coating

Light harvesting coating is about adding value to solar energy technology that’s already out there. We are developing new ways for mass fabrication of textured surfaces optimised for light capture. We take materials that work reasonably well and improve their structure so they work even better. This has real potential to create industries that might be viable in New Zealand.

Soaking up CO2

Our project to develop metal organic framework materials for carbon dioxide separation could help to resolve one of the biggest issues the planet is facing. We have discovered that putting the right components together in a solution can create a beautiful networked material - rather like a big sponge on a nanometric scale. If engineered correctly this will preferentially soak up carbon dioxide without soaking up oxygen, nitrogen or water.

Purification and storage of methane from natural gas and biogas

The principal difficulty with current technology is separating methane from carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. The metal-organic framework sponges we are developing can be used to capture methane. Longer term, this research will provide a foundation for methane storage on board methane-powered vehicles for transportation.

Electrodes for batteries and solar cells

We are creating new classes of materials by using the metal-organic frameworks to produce very highly porous metal and containing conducting polymer networks. These can be used as high-activity electrodes for batteries and solar cells, and in energy storage as supercapacitor electrodes.

Paul Kruger - building things with molecules

Professor Paul Kruger of the MacDiarmid Institute and the University of Canterbury is using metal organic frameworks to capture carbon dioxide so it can be filtered out of the atmosphere for emissions reduction efforts.

SAVVY Express: Science Media Centre - MacDiarmid Institute

February 23, 2015

More information

If you want to find out more, visit the following sections of our site:

Out of the lab

Since the MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology opened in 2002, our scientists and their collaborators have developed many exciting innovations to aid our transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. Some have been patented, some are in the field-testing stage and others have gone on to be produced and marketed.

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Into the marketplace

The aim of materials science and nanotechnology research at the MacDiarmid Institute is to positively transform people's lives and to benefit New Zealand. We partner with existing businesses to solve their materials science problems and take our innovations into the marketplace

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Principal Investigators

Associate Investigators

Our research programme will benefit New Zealand in the form of new knowledge and manufacturing processes that could be taken up by exporters.

Associate Professor Geoff Waterhouse MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator Science Leader for Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation University of Auckland

In the news

Beyond lithium - Annual Report 2018

Annual Report

Beyond lithium - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

In today’s tech-hungry world, lithium batteries are ubiquitous, with everything from your mobile phone to the neighbour’s electric car relying on the metal, and it’s easy to see why. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries pack a punch, storing more energy than any other battery of equivalent size, and delivering power to where it’s needed, quickly and efficiently.

Read more about Beyond lithium - Annual Report 2018

Metal Organic Frameworks - Annual Report 2018

Annual Report

Metal Organic Frameworks - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

An entire rugby turf in a teaspoon: the tiny crystal game-changers in combatting climate change.

Read more about Metal Organic Frameworks - Annual Report 2018

New Associate Investigators - Annual Report 2018

Annual Report

New Associate Investigators - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

An overview of the research interests of each of our nine new Associate Investigators.

Read more about New Associate Investigators - Annual Report 2018

New Principal Investigators - Annual Report 2018

Annual Report

New Principal Investigators - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

An overview of the research interests of each of our eight new Principal Investigators.

Read more about New Principal Investigators - Annual Report 2018

Independent Postdoctoral Fellows - Annual Report 2018

Annual Report

Independent Postdoctoral Fellows - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

An overview of the research interests of each of our six new Independent Postdoctoral Fellows.

Read more about Independent Postdoctoral Fellows - Annual Report 2018

Videos

April 8, 2019

Oxford Professor Henry Snaith and MacDiarmid Institute Co-Director Professor Justin Hodgkiss discuss the economics and science behind the remarkable growth in photovoltaics and reflect on some of the benefits of solar energy capture during the 8th International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology (AMN8).

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2015 Lecture Series: The Energy Revolution

February 16, 2019

The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Global warming from their burning is undeniable, but when will tomorrow begin? Will it be a smooth transition into renewable energy? Is there even enough sunlight striking the Earth to supply the increasing energy demands of 6-9 billion humans? Can our renewable energy sources be enough for a nuclear-averse country like New Zealand?

In the 2015 MacDiarmid Institute Regional Lecture Series: The Energy Revolution MacDiarmid Institute researchers Justin Hodgkiss and Luke Liu discuss and begin to answer these big questions.

Read more 2015 Lecture Series: The Energy Revolution

MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke: an exciting career in science

February 25, 2019

Physicist and MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke discusses her exciting career in science. 

This video includes captions.

Read more MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke: an exciting career in science

MacDiarmid Institute alumnus Dr Matthew Cowan: the importance of failure in success

February 25, 2019

MacDiarmid Institute alumnus Dr Matthew Cowan discusses his research and the importance of failure in success.

This video includes captions.

Read more MacDiarmid Institute alumnus Dr Matthew Cowan: the importance of failure in success

Nature of Science - Maan Alkaisi

March 21, 2019

The MacDiarmid Institute's Professor Maan Alkaisi speaks about his interesting work in nanotechnology - what is nanotechology and how do we use it?

His work is focussed on nanoscale structures and devices and is interested in how properties behave differently at small scales. From a young age Maan has been fascinated by the capability of small devices, like transistors and digital cameras, and his work is focused how making small, better, and more effective electronic devices to help us live healthier and better lives.

Read more Nature of Science - Maan Alkaisi