Over the Delivery Plan period, to help realise the potential of Electrochemical Sciences to generate real-world breakthroughs and benefits in sectors ranging from healthcare to energy, we will support research investments focused on:
- Creating strong pathways to impact from high-quality fundamental research
- Fostering vital development of researchers at the early-career stage
By the end of the period, we will have consolidated investments within the highest-quality research environments and focused the portfolio on fundamental research oriented towards:
- Informing the next stage of development in relevant application areas
- Providing understanding to underpin the tackling of key societal challenges
For example, research may include: electrochemistry for analytical sensor technologies used in healthcare applications; underpinning advances in clean energy and routes to sustainable chemical technologies; providing fundamental electrochemical understanding for advances in electronics; research into electrochemical processes for water treatment / purification.
We will maintain support for research focused on large and mid-scale Energy Storage and battery applications, and on the underpinning of novel materials development for Fuel Cell Technology, in line with EPSRC's Energy strategy for these areas.
Crucially, we will facilitate development at the early-career stage to ensure pull-through from recent increased investment in training, to develop future leaders and secure the future supply of UK Electrochemical Sciences researchers. We expect to see early-career researchers (ECRs) being fully supported in the highest-quality research environments, to safeguard future capability.
Fundamental Electrochemical Sciences research underpins a whole range of application areas across engineering and physical sciences (Evidence sources 1,2,3). Moreover, it is important for a number of industry sectors (Evidence source 4). For example, electrochemistry provides new understanding for energy storage and battery technologies (Evidence source 2), as well as contributing to meeting challenges posed by nuclear fuel processing.
The UK has particular strength in electrochemistry for lithium-air and lithium-sulphur batteries for more efficient energy storage (Evidence source 5). Electrochemical Sciences research is also important to the healthcare sector in the development of sensors for health monitoring, and to engineering for water treatment processes and understanding corrosion (Evidence sources 3). In addition, it underpins work in sustainable chemical technologies, manufacturing, electronics, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and transport.
Electrochemistry is a broad field and, in terms of UK research, the quality distribution is large (Evidence sources 6). There is, however, a significant concentration of high-quality fundamental research within a small number of institutions. It is important that EPSRC investment continues to be focused in the highest-quality research environments to ensure the strength of the research portfolio in this area. Equally, research must be focused specifically on supporting fundamental work that has a significant element of core Electrochemical Sciences research directed at enabling new understanding that can underpin the developments needed to create impact via applications.
Recent developments in this research area include the coupling of Electrochemical Sciences techniques with other spectroscopic techniques (e.g. synchrotron capability) to obtain more-detailed molecular-level information. Researchers are therefore making increased use of large national and international facilities, such as the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Diamond Light Source and other synchrotron radiation sources.
While a much higher proportion of this area is now invested in training compared to 2012, this has not translated to support at the early-career stage - despite signposting this as a priority during the last Delivery Plan period. Development at the early-career stage is still required, to maximise potential created by an increased training portfolio, ensure the area's long-term health and secure its ability to contribute to meeting key challenges. Early-career development should be supported within the best UK groups and focus on high-quality fundamental research with strong links to application areas, thus enabling pull-through of Electrochemical Sciences expertise into other fields.
Potential to contribute particularly to Resilient, Productive and Healthy Nation Outcomes, including the following specific Ambitions:
P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs
R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency
This research area can contribute, for example, to solar energy conversion technologies and biofuels, and via clean, low-carbon, sustainable electrochemical routes to value-added chemicals (e.g. from carbon dioxide and biomass). It can also provide underpinning energy storage solutions at all relevant scales to achieve more efficient storage with higher energy densities, at the required energy delivery rates and with longer cycle lifetimes.
P5: Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on circular economy
This research area can aid development of sustainable chemical technologies and feedstocks.
R3: Develop better solutions to acute threats: cyber, defence, financial and health
This area can underpin advances in sensor technologies for detecting biological and chemical agents.
R4: Manage resources efficiently and sustainably
Electrochemical methods can improve water treatment, purification and desalination processes (e.g. capacitive water deionization and detection of pollutants by electrochemical methods).
H1: Transform community health and care
This area can underpin development of bioanalytical sensors for point-of-care and home-based health monitoring and diagnosis with the required sensitivity, selectivity and longevity.
- Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Main Panel B Overview Report (PDF), (2014)
- J. Skea, Electrochemical Energy Technologies and Energy Storage: Energy Strategy Fellowship - Energy Research and Training Prospectus Report 6, (2014)
- NACE International, International Measures of Prevention, Application, and Economics of Corrosion Technologies (IMPACT) Study (PDF), (2016)
- EPSRC, Sovereign Capability Report, (2015)
- CWTS, Leiden Ranking Citation Analysis, (2015)
- EPSRC REF panel workshop, (2016)