Anna Martinelli and Christian Müller become SSF Future Research Leaders

​Anna Martinelli and Christian Müller, both Associate Professors at Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, have been awarded Future Research Leaders by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, SSF.

​We talked with Anna Martinelli and Christian Müller about their research.


Anna Martinelli, who during the autumn also has been awarded Future Research Leader by Formas and Wallenberg Academy Fellow, is researching within the field of proton-conductive materials for the fuel cells of the future. The fuel cell can become more efficient with a silica-based nano-porous membrane filled with protic ionic liquid and at the same time reduce its material costs, which makes the fuel cell more attractive as an energy solution.

What does it mean for you to become a Future Research Leader?

- It is obviously a great honour to get this award, since both my research and my personality has been highly ranked! The road from application to grant is long and means that you have to go through quite a few reviews, by both national and international experts within both science and leadership. The reviewed project must also have a potential for commercialisation.

It has really been your autumn. What is it that made you get all these awards now?

- Yes it has really been a successful autumn. It is hard to tell but I guess that I slowly and steadily have succeeded in creating a strong CV that could withstand hard competition. I believe that I also have shown a good balance between high ambitions, both feet on the ground, joy in my work and a genuine interest for my co-workers.

Do the different grants create one big project or is there a difference between the KAW-, Formas and the SSF-grant?

- All projects have the mutual goal to reach new, cheaper and better performing proton conductive materials. While the Formas- project that I will lead together with Lars Nordstierna is focused on the use of raw material from nature like cellulose, surface chemistry and transport phenomenon are more central in the other two projects. The KAW-project is of a more fundamental level, while the SSF-project will be more focused on applied research.

What are the chances that nanosilica and ion liquids have a place in future fuel cells? When will it happen?

- That is not easy to answer. The road to commercialisation means tests in a gradually increasing scale, which may take many years. We have, on the other hand, already shown steps forward in how surface chemistry may be manipulated and make it possible to control the intra molecular interaction and thus improve the transport characteristics. I am sure that we can reach far if we continue to develop this strategy.

Further reading Achieving enhanced ionic mobility in nanoporous silica by controlled surface interactions" nyligen publicerad i PCCP, DOI: 10.1039/C6CP07351D).

 

Christian Müller is Associate Professor in Polymer technology and will as Future Research Leader ensure the efficient energy infrastructure of the future. High voltage cables that are used for long distance energy transport, like marine wind power or across continents, are limited in efficiency due to the isolation material. With new isolation materials both efficiency and cost could be more beneficial. In his project Christian Müller will develop nano-structured plastics to isolate high-voltage cables so that the capacity may be improved without having to increase the dimension of the cable.
What does it mean for you to become a Future Research Leader?
- It is an exceptional honour to be part of this programme. I am very much looking forward to the leadership training that accompanies this award.
You are researching within solar cells, smart textiles and now high voltage cables. Doesn’t it get confusing with projects that are so different from each other?
- It would be of concern if our focus were the applications. But from the viewpoint of materials science we are always dealing with very similar materials and materials concepts. It may not seem intuitive, but our work on very conducting and very insulating materials is tightly connected.
Why the interest in high voltage cables?
- It is a research topic that has a long tradition at Chalmers. When I joined the university five years ago, thanks to many colleagues at Chalmers, KTH and the local industry, I had the opportunity to quickly familiarise myself with this topic. Previously, I had worked on polymer solar cells a lot and I often got the question whether our solar cells will become commercial one day, considering that there are so many other promising technologies out there. Well, now I can answer that you will always need a cable, regardless of the type of solar cell that you are using.

Page manager Published: Wed 21 Dec 2016.