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George O'Connell

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PhD Candidate | UNSW Sydney

I began my PhD in 2021 after graduating from UNSW with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering in 2020 with First Class Honours and the University Medal. A core belief of mine is that technology is the solution to the climate crisis. This passion fueled my Honour’s thesis on converting CO2 into renewable fuels, which I continue today.

Project title: Light-assisted thermocatalysis CO2 reforming

In recent years, there has been considerable attention to CO2 reforming through the CO2 methanation and methane dry reforming reactions as a method of simultaneously producing fuel and utilising CO2, with the overarching goal of curbing anthropogenic CO2 levels. No catalyst has been able to overcome the thermodynamic and kinetic limits of this system. Progression in this field is looking toward ultraviolet-visible-light (UV-Vis) illumination to offset the thermal requirements and enhance the catalytic performance through a mechanism known as Local Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR). The aim of my project is to develop an understanding of the role of surface oxygen defects, active metal deposit size, and the proximity between these two variables in the visible-light-enhanced thermocatalysis of CO2 reforming reactions.

My work uncovered the importance of the active metal for light-assisted methanation. The light impact may be maximised by carefully tuning the size of the active metal, improving the viability of light-assisted catalysts. My future work will focus on developing a light-receptive catalyst for light-assisted methane dry reforming.

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