Meet Mary Donnabelle Balela, PhD, Newton Fund Institutional Links Grant awardee.

Research topic: Affordable electrolyser technology based on transition metal catalyst for energy storage 

Host institution / UK university: Newcastle University

Home institution: University of the Philippines Diliman

What is your proposed research topic/title of your collaboration?

Energy security remains to be a compelling global issue. The use of renewable energy sources may address this to a certain extent; however, their high degree of variability limits their full-scale potential. To cope with this, the research collaboration aims to develop an affordable electrolyser system for energy storage. This will make use of the membrane and transition metal based-catalysts, developed and synthesized by Newcastle University and UP, respectively.

What is the relevance of your research to the Philippines’ economic development and/or social welfare?

At the end of the project, it is expected that the technology would allow local communities to have cheaper, yet sustainable source of energy. The research would also open opportunities, create new jobs most specifically in the industries involved in renewable energies and hydrogen production. The reduction of carbon dioxide emission may also lead to the improvement of air quality and result to a better life. Most importantly, as the technology addresses the mismatch between energy generation and usage, it makes hydrogen technology deal away from centralized hydrogen production facilities and infrastructure. This significantly helps the poor in remote areas in the Philippines achieve energy security through better energy distribution schemes. Ultimately, the Newton award has paved a way to the improvement of skills of both parties through these trainings. 

How will your UK collaboration contribute to your home institution’s research goals?

The project was the first collaboration between Newcastle University and the University of the Philippines. Having different projects with nanomaterials as the main focus, this collaboration would expand, complement, and consolidate the knowledge of all researchers involved by exploring the applications of nanomaterials in sustainable and renewable energies. The proponents believe that the continuation of this collaboration is highly valuable for the growth of both parties in their respective fields of expertise. The partnership could be sustained through the management of collaboration responsibilities, tracking of research outputs, and regular and close communication.

What about the UK influenced your decision to collaborate with your partner institution?

Newcastle University is very much committed to its vision on sustainability: “enough for all forever”. Its primary research thrust is on energy production and storage, having 79 researchers working on such. Furthermore, the School of Chemical Engineering, to which Dr. Mohammed Mamlouk is affiliated, has a very good foundation on Electrochemical Engineering Science. Dr. Mamlouk has a proven performance history in this field. He is a Research Fellow at the university with over 10 years of experience on ion-conducting membrane optimization. He also has published 43 papers, was cited for over 850 times, and has participated on many projects on the development of intermediate-temperature membranes and optimization of electrodes.