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UCL Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering Sciences


An Interview with Dr Midhat Talibi

An interview with Dr Midhat Talibi

UCL Mechanical Engineering Senior Research Fellow Dr Midhat Talibi talks about his UKRI funded project – HOPE.

Can you explain your project in concise 2-3 sentences?

My fellowship HOPE is focused towards developing hydrogen combustion technologies for power generation and aero-propulsion applications. I have designed a programme of work integrating aspects of combustion, fluid mechanics and material science. This programme is divided into 2 parts: the first part covers fundamental research which will take place at UCL, while the second part focuses on applying these laboratory concepts to industrial settings. Here, I will be working with two leading technology companies, Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd. and Reaction Engines Ltd., to enable an accelerated pathway to integrate hydrogen fuelled technologies in current energy systems

What was the inspiration behind your project?

My vision is to provide underpinning scientific contributions towards resolving the global energy crisis. Concerns about deteriorating air quality and global climate change have pushed the need to decarbonise energy systems on a global scale. Hydrogen has the potential of emerging as the leading energy carrier for the next generation of zero-carbon emission combustion systems. However, there are daunting scientific challenges which limit 100% hydrogen combustion in current energy technologies, which I will be addressing through this research. Notwithstanding the obstacles of large-scale H2 production and storage, the technology to carry out hydrogen combustion safely, efficiently and cleanly needs to be developed, and is the motivation for my fellowship HOPE.

What do you hope the completion of this project will achieve?

My fellowship will deliver new science which will enable transformative change in future energy technologies and allow the full potential of hydrogen combustion for propulsion and power applications to be realised. The potential impact of my fellowship is far-reaching and includes industry, policy, environment, society and academia. The proposed work will provide step advances in the development of commercial hydrogen gas turbines, enabling the UK to lead in low-carbon gas turbine innovation. This is strategically very important to meet the UK objectives of complete decarbonisation in the power generation and transport industry by 2050. Furthermore, there is huge potential for the outcomes of this research to find applications in other industries, such as domestic and commercial heating. Hence, the development of H2 combustion technology has immense benefits on a national and global level.

What are the next steps in completing your project?

One of the advantages of the UKRI FLF scheme is that provides funding to build your research team, hence my first fellowship-related activity will be recruiting passionate researchers who will help me deliver the ambitious goals of the fellowship. I will also be putting together an advisory board comprising of my academic and industrial mentors, and technology heads of the project partners which will convene annually to facilitate two-way knowledge exchange and oversee the project. They will provide guidance for research strategy and identify opportunities for impact.

Through this fellowship, I will be developing novel methodologies and advanced diagnostic tools to create a unique facility for hydrogen combustion research at UCL. I have a comprehensive and well laid out work plan to fulfil the objectives of this project and am eager to disseminate new scientific knowledge that will aid in the development of zero-carbon emission energy systems.

How can this fellowship help you and your team?

This fellowship will enable me to establish myself as an internationally leading researcher in hydrogen combustion and achieve the highest standards of performance. Through my mobility activities and collaborations with industrial partners, I aim to broaden my expertise and skills in experimental and modelling research. I hope to train and mentor highly skilled research engineers who would be inspired to continue cutting-edge research. My research activities align with UCL’s 2034 research strategy and will enable the institution to be at the forefront of academic research in low-carbon technologies.

My commercial partners in this fellowship are Siemens and Reaction Engines. Siemens is a global gas turbine manufacturer and my research fits in with their technology roadmap of building 100% hydrogen gas turbines. Reaction Engines is a UK rocket engine company, and perhaps one of the most innovative technology company I have come across. They are building a hybrid air-breathing rocket engine, and I will be providing underpinning science to help them develop their hydrogen propulsion system.

How do you feel about receiving the fellowship?

I am very glad to have received this prestigious fellowship and embark on this new journey in my academic career. The UKRI FLF scheme is unique as it not only focuses on delivering new research but also provides the time and resources to develop yourself as a leader in the field. This fellowship will provide me with a platform to develop a long-term research strategy, establish extended collaborations with industry, liaise with academic groups working in this area and engage with energy policy representatives… all of which is very exciting. I will be able to retain talented and trained researchers for the duration of the fellowship, hence allowing me to build a strong and sustainable research team. This fellowship will not only boost my ambition of becoming an international leader in hydrogen research but will also accelerate development of hydrogen gas turbines in a narrow time-frame.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or credit?

Firstly, I am grateful to UCL Mechanical Engineering and Professor Ventikos for always being immensely supportive of my work and providing a conducive environment to develop my research strategy. The department has a very effective mentoring programme and I would like to thank the academics who provided invaluable help, support and guidance throughout the entire application process. Thanks are also due to the professional services team for helping me with the paperwork associated with this application, and to the machining workshop team who enable me to develop research ideas into tangible forms. The research facilitators at UCL BEAMS were incredibly helpful and provided crucial advice at every stage of the process. Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to the industrial collaborators for supporting this proposal.

Is there a public engagement aspect to your fellowship?

I am keen to communicate with a more general audience, in order to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the society related to energy and environment and highlight the role low-carbon disruptive technologies can play in mitigating these challenges. To this end, I intend to build on my track record of public outreach by becoming a STEM ambassador and establishing a hub at UCL for continued community engagement via schools, further education colleges and the public. I have identified Inclusive Multi Academy Trust (IMAT), which consists of three primary schools in Watford, as one of the key partners for my outreach activities. I plan to work together with the teaching staff at IMAT to integrate energy science into the curriculum, with the aim to promote student interest in STEM subjects. I will use this opportunity to create hands-on and online learning resources which can be utilised by multiple educational institutions.

Learn more:
Project details
Fellowship news release announcement
Dr Midhat Talibi’s UCL page

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