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Dr Ning Yan, assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam's Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, has been awarded the 2021 Aquila Capital Transformation Award for his Nature Communications paper on 'A membrane-free flow electrolyser operating at high current density using earth-abundant catalysts for water splitting'. The award, recognizing research for mitigating climate change, comes with 20,000 euros.

Ning Yan is an assistant professor at the research group for Heterogeneous Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry led by Prof. Gadi Rothenberg. As part of the University's Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry, he leads the group for fuel cells and electro catalysis research, focusing on the development of novel electrochemical reactors for energy conversion and storage. Photo: UvA, Dirk Gillissen.

The jury recognizes Ning Yan and his team for "an exciting and innovative way" to produce green hydrogen more cost-efficiently and at a larger scale by combining the advantages of different electrolyser concepts. Using a membrane-less solution coupled with a novel cyclic operation, he introduces a new low-energy water-splitting process to produce pure hydrogen, which will be an important element of our future energy system.

"With his new approach to cost-efficiently produce sustainable hydrogen, Dr Yan is a true trailblazer for a greener future", said Roman Rosslenbroich, co-founder and CEO of Aquila Capital, the German-based investment and asset development company focussing on clean energy and sustainable infrastructure. Aquila Capital manages wind energy, solar PV and hydropower assets of more than 12 GW capacity and invests in energy efficiency, carbon forestry, and data centres. With its annual Transformation Award, it recognises outstanding practice-oriented scientific work that has the potential to play a central role in decarbonizing economies.

Originality, quality and impact

This year's jury consisted of Prof. John Schellnhuber (Director Emeritus at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), Prof. Eicke R. Weber (former director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems), and Prof. Yukari Takamura (professor at the Institute for Future Initiatives, University of Tokyo) as well as two managers from Aquila Capital. They selected Ning Yan's paper based on criteria for originality, quality, and impact. In close second place was a paper from Asegun Henry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) regarding Thermal Energy Storage.

Read more on Ning Yan's prize-winning research that was performed together with researchers from Wuhan University and Wuhan University of Technology in our news item Chemists at University of Amsterdam develop novel electrolyser for hydrogen production.

Paper details

Xiaoyu Yan, Jasper Biemolt, Kai Zhao, Yang Zhao, Xiaojuan Cao, Ying Yang, Xiaoyu Wu, Gadi Rothenberg & Ning Yan: A membrane-free flow electrolyzer operating at high current density using earth-abundant catalysts for water splitting. Nat Commun 12, 4143 (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-24284-5

See also