Joint appointment fuels sustainable energy research

Professor Shanwen Tao

Professor Shanwen Tao

Generating power efficiently from renewable sources is a key interest of the latest Monash Warwick Alliance joint appointee, Professor Shanwen Tao.

Professor Tao’s research career spans close to two decades and includes postdoctoral positions at the University of Science and Technology of China, and postings at the National Laboratory of Denmark and the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Since 2010, he has been Professor of Nanotechnology for Energy Solutions at the University of Strathclyde in the UK.

Professor Tao joined the Alliance in July 2015 as Monash Warwick Professor of Chemical Engineering and Sustainable Processes. In this role, he will direct his research to technologies related to energy and sustainable synthesis to reduce CO2 emissions with electro-chemically synthesised fuels.

“Mass production of energy that is both cost effective and environmentally friendly is a global challenge,” Professor Tao said.

“My key research areas are two-part: fuel cells and electrochemical synthesis. At this stage electrochemical synthesis of useful chemicals from renewable electricity is my focus. I am particularly interested in sustainable synthesis - the chemical synthesis processes which do not rely on fossil fuels as an energy source.”

Professor Tao has been recognised for the development of the first urea/urine fuel cell, an exciting new technology that can generate power from waste though it is not yet ready for commercial use.

“A urea fuel cell can be used to power an electric vehicle if the power density of the fuel cell is high enough,” he said. “However, the application of urea/urine fuel cell is limited by the stability of existing materials. We are working hard on materials discovery so we can solve this problem and commercialise the technology.”

The collaborative possibilities facilitated by the Alliance will help further his teaching and research aims, he said.

“Monash and Warwick are top universities in the world and this appointment gives me the opportunity to collaborate with outstanding researchers at both universities, making my research more fruitful and helping transfer my knowledge and experience to students,” Professor Tao said.

“I am very proud to be a part of the Monash Warwick Alliance. It is a pioneer in the globalisation of higher education.”

Formed in early 2012, the Monash Warwick Alliance represents an innovation in higher education and research and aims to accelerate the exchange of people, ideas and information between Monash University and the University of Warwick.