G T Burstein University of Cambridge
Professor Tim Burstein
Professor of Materials Chemistry and Corrosion
ENERGY STORAGE – Corrosion and protection of metals, development of novel, low-cost fuel-cell systems, and surface electrochemistry and electrochemical
Departments and Institutes
Corrosion, Fuel Cells and Surface Electrochemistry
This research concerns the corrosion and protection of metals, the development of novel, low-cost fuel-cell systems, and the surface electrochemistry and electrochemical processing of metals.
Corrosion of metals
Corrosion of metals consumes massive resources globally, including cost, materials and the energy required to produce them. We are researching into the genesis of corrosion at a nanoscopic level and how this leads to failure. We have developed new techniques designed to isolate the earliest steps in localised corrosion, using the knowledge acquired to develop unique methods of corrosion control in terms of reliable prediction and of surface treatment. The corrosion and passivity of surgical implant alloys, and of pipeline steels from the oil industry are amongst our current major subjects.
Development of fuel cells
Fuel cells promise efficient conversion of combustible fuels into electrical energy, and thereby energy efficiency. Research in this field covers the development of low-cost base electrocatalysts for electro-oxidation of hydrogen and methanol, and for reduction of oxygen from air. These require an extremely high level of passivity towards corrosion, and it is on these passive surfaces that the catalysis takes place. We are currently designing the passivity and the electrocatalysis. Although they do not yet have a performance comparable with platinum, these low-cost materials should eventually enable much wider use of fuel cells, particularly for electric vehicles. We also research alternative electrolytes for low-temperature fuel cells. Our work has so far revealed remarkable fuel selectivity and resistance to poisoning by CO. Ultimately, we also require solar-powered hydrogen production from water.