Postcard from China: Making a global impact on clean energy research

The International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO2017), an assessment created by the US Energy Information Administration, predicts that global energy consumption will increase by 28% between 2015 and 2040.

This predicted increase has prompted countries to counterbalance their consumption by expanding their energy=generating capacity. However, for countries like China — which relies heavily on burning coal to generate energy —this task may not seem so straightforward.

As a chemical engineering undergraduate student at Western University, I like to stay apprised of current global problems relating to my studies, such as energy production. I’ve also been lucky enough to live in Ontario, a province that has invested heavily in clean and sustainable energy production.

After completing my second year, I was presented the opportunity to part take in a summer exchange program established between Western and several Chinese Universities in cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, and Hangzhou. As this was my first time travelling to Asia, I requested to be assigned to a university at random. Thus, I travelled to Shanghai, China to join Professor Jing Xu and his team of graduate students at the East China University of Science and Technology. Both the people and the city ended up being a perfect fit. Thanks to the Mitacs Globalink Research Award, I was able to contribute to the research and development of new clean energy production methods and explore a city I never imagined I would travel to. 

The research aimed to develop and test the performance of a new catalysts with high selectivity toward high-value products for energy production. Through my internship, I utilized a variety of characterization techniques to construct a structure-performance relationship of the developed catalysts. Once this was done, we used the relationships to create the best performing catalyst product. 

Having the opportunity to travel to China to conduct this research as opposed to staying in Canada made all the difference for me. Seeing the country’s air pollution issues first-hand and experiencing its effects reiterated the importance of my research. In a sense, it ended up being a great source of inspiration for me. Furthermore, the international experience was great. Being able to collaborate with experts from around the world was an experience of its own, and I would highly recommend participating in the program. 


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