Ceres Power engineer recognised for contribution to novel clean energy technology

18th September 2023
Sheryl Miles

Dr Robert Leah, Research Fellow at Ceres Power, is to receive the 2023 Armourers and Brasiers’ Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering for his successful application of novel materials science and engineering to green energy technology.

The biennial prize is awarded to an individual, based in the UK, for excellence in materials engineering demonstrated by the successful application of novel materials science and technology in practical engineering systems. Dr Leah will receive the award with a cash prize of £2,000 at the Academy’s AGM in London on 19th September 2023.

Ceres Power is a specialist in climate technology and its pioneering fuel cells for power generation and electrolysers for green hydrogen are set to decarbonise the world. The solid oxide cell is based on common low-cost materials, is combined with an innovative deposition technique and a highly differentiated stack technology. This technology means that just one cell is enough to light a room, but the 250 megawatts of capacity set to come on stream in 2024 could power half a million homes. Earlier this year Dr Leah was part of the Ceres Power team that won the UK’s longest running prize for engineering innovation, the MacRobert Award, from the Academy.

Robert Leah is acknowledged within Ceres Power, and within the wider solid oxide fuel cell community, as a world-class technical authority and prolific innovator. Licensing commercially viable technology in this space is primarily a materials science challenge and Dr Leah has been central to building Ceres’ success story since its foundation in 2001.

As one of the company’s first employees, he developed system concepts based on his background in chemical engineering and went on to lead the Materials Research and Development team, becoming the lead inventor on 21 patent families. He was the company’s first Technology Fellow.

A major focus of his future work is optimising Ceres’ technology for the production of green hydrogen through electrolysis of steam using renewable or nuclear electricity with much higher efficiency than existing technologies, which is expected to become a large industry over the coming decades.

Dr Leah says: “I am greatly honoured to be receiving this award, a recognition of over 20 years of innovation in the field of materials engineering which has enabled the development of Ceres Power, a world-leading UK clean energy business, from virtually nothing to being included in the FTSE250 and partnering with some of the world’s largest companies to help deliver the net-zero transition.”

“While this is a recognition of my own contribution in making a number of key innovations which make the technology feasible, it was of course a team effort so I would like to acknowledge the contribution of both current and past colleagues and our academic founders and partners.”

Supporting his nomination, Greg Kelsall, Chair of the IChemE Clean Energy Special Interest Group, says: “Rob’s career has been dedicated to championing and developing clean energy technology, with a specific focus on fuel cells. He joined Ceres in the early stages of its formation when its novel solid oxide fuel cell concept was a prototype. His work on the material sets and engineering of successive generations of the technology has been instrumental in taking it from lab-scale bench through to commercialisation at scale with multiple global partners.”

“Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing challenges, and Rob’s work is a great example of the role of materials science and engineering in providing real, valuable solutions.”

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