MESA+ University of Twente
Inorganic Materials Science Group


NanoMaterials for Energy

The research aim is to develop new materials with novel advanced properties in which the functionality is controlled by nanoscale structures leading to improved energy applications. Currently research is focused on four topics: interface effects, thermoelectrics, hydrogen generation and solar CO2 conversion.

This research is part of the Strategic Research Orientation (SRO) ‘NanoMaterials for Energy’ of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, which goal is is to exploit and expand the present expertise in the field of nano-related energy research through multidisciplinary collaboration between various research groups.

The worldwide energy demand is continuously growing and it becomes clear that future energy supply can only be guaranteed through increased use of renewable energy sources. With energy recovery through renewable sources like sun, wind, water, tides, geothermal or biomass the global energy demand could be met many times over; currently however it is still inefficient and too expensive in many cases to take over significant parts of the energy supply. Innovation and increases in efficiency in conjunction with a general reduction of energy consumption are urgently needed. Nanotechnology exhibits the unique potential for decisive technological breakthroughs in the energy sector, thus making substantial contributions to sustainable energy supply.

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Potential of renewable energy sources.[Shell energy scenarios to 2050 (2008)]

Nanotechnologies as key and cross-sectional technologies exhibit the unique potential for decisive technological breakthroughs in the energy sector, thus making substantial contributions to sustainable energy supply. The range of possible nano-applications in the energy sector comprises gradual short and medium-term improvements for a more efficient use of conventional and renewable energy sources as well as completely new long-term approaches for energy recovery and utilization.

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Application of Nanotechnologies in the Energy Sector.[Hessen-Nanotech (2008)]

Current research projects

Efficient energy harvesting by nanostructured thermoelectric materials


To what extent can the heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency be increased by fabricating high-quality oxide superlattices, i.e., is it possible to reduce the thermal conductivity through optimized phonon scattering by confinement in oxide nanostructures? Here, the fabrication of high quality interfaces is particularly challenging, because atomic interdiffusion and interface defects will have significant influence on phonon scattering and charge carrier transport. New developments in atomically controlled thin film growth enable us to design and fabricate such novel artificial oxide materials.

PhD student: Peter Brinks, Supervisor: dr. Mark Huijben (IMS/TNW)


Visible-light induced water-splitting on a chip


A direct way to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water is by photocatalysis. Following a two step z-scheme process, it is possible to use the visible part of the light spectra. In this process two types of catalytic particles needs sunlight to become active and one will take care for the oxygen production and the other for the hydrogen production. Between the catalytic particles there is an exchange of electrons and H+. Results in the literature show a low efficiency for this method. By introducing a structured metallic divider the goal is to separate the hydrogen and oxygen catalysts, and take care for a low conduction path for the electrons. This should contribute to an increased efficiency of the photocatalytic process. The metallic plate also divides the system in two compartments, which results in a separated oxygen and hydrogen production.

PhD student: Michel Zoontjes, Supervisors: prof. dr. Wilfred van der Wiel (NE/EWI), prof dr. Guido Mul (PCS/TNW), dr. Mark Huijben (IMS/TNW)

For more information, please contact Dr. ir. Mark Huijben