Professor John Varcoe CSci Chem FRSC

Professor in Materials Chemistry and Director of Research
+44 (0)1483 686838
02 AZ 02


Areas of specialism

Anion-exchange polymer electrolytes; Radiation-grafted functional polymers; Alkali membrane fuel cells and electrolysers; Reverse electrodialysis; Raman spectro-microscopy

University roles and responsibilities

  • Director of Research (Chemistry)
  • Faculty Research and Enterprise Committee
  • Fire Marshal AZ Building

    My qualifications

    BSc (Hons) Chemistry (first class)
    University of Exeter
    PhD Materials Chemistry
    University of Exeter
    Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice
    University of Surrey


    Research interests

    Research projects

    Research collaborations

    Indicators of esteem

    • Key Conference Speeches:

      • Keynote speech (opening session E4) at EUROMAT 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden (Sept 2019)
      • Two invited talks (sessions IO5 and IO6) at the 235th ECS meeting in Dallas, TX USA (May 2019)
      • Invited talk at the 19th Solid State Proton Conductors meeting in Stowe, Vermont USA (Sept 2018)
      • Opening invited talk at the 6th international seminar on green energy conversion in Koumi Japan (Sept 2017)
      • Invited talk at the 18th Solid State Proton Conductors meeting in Oslo Norway (Sept 2016)
      • Invited talk at the 2016 Spring Materials Research Society Meeting in Phoenix USA (March 2016)
      • Invited talk at the 7th International Fuel Cell Workshop 2015 in Kofu Japan (August 2015)
      • Keynote talk at the 18th National Conference on Electrochemistry in Harbin China (August 2015)
      • Invited talk at the ECS Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage in Glasgow UK (July 2015)
      • Invited lectures at the EMEA Workshops on ion–exchange membranes in Bad Zwischenahn Germany (June 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
      • Keynote talk delivered to the 1st International Symposium of Polymer Ecomaterials in Changchun China (Aug 2012)
      • Keynote talk at the American Chemical Society's 242nd National Meeting in Denver, Colorado USA (August 2011) in the Fuel Cell Chemistry and Operation Session
      • Keynote talk at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Materials Chemistry 10 (MC10) conference in Manchester UK (July 2011)
      • Plenary session lecture "Anion-Exchange Polymers and Non-platinum Catalysts for Alkaline Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells" in Symposium B7 (Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells 10) at the 218 Electrochemical Society Meeting (October 2010)
    • Academic Awards

      • 2016: University Health and Safety Champion Award (2015-2016)
      • 2010: EPSRC Leadership Fellowship (2010-2015)
      • 2010: Faculty Researcher of the Year (University of Surrey)
      • 1997: Lovis Rydon Memorial Prize for best second year Ph.D. performance (University of Exeter)
      • 1995: Fisons Prize for best third year results (University of Exeter)
      • 1995: White Knight Prize for best inorganic third year project (University of Exeter)
      • 1994: Beecham Prize for best second year results (University of Exeter)
      • 1993: Dean’s Commendation for outstanding first year performance (University of Exeter)

      My teaching

      Courses I teach on


      My publications


      See Google Scholar Profile for a full list of publications and citations

      ORCID ID: 0000-0001-9898-0235

      All of the below where Surrey is lead affiliation are CC-BY Open Access

      INVITED REVIEW: J. R. Varcoe, P. Atanassov, D. R. Dekel, A. M. Herring, M. A. Hickner, P. A. Kohl, A. R. Kucernak, W. E. Mustain, K. Nijmeijer, K. Scott, T. Xu, L. Zhuang, "Anion-exchange membranes in electrochemical energy systems",Energy Environ. Sci., 7, 3135 (2014).

      H. A. Miller, M. V. Pagliaro, M. Bellini, F. Bartoli, L. Wang, I. Salam, J. R. Varcoe, F. Vizza, "Integration of a Pd-CeO2/C Anode with Pt and Pt-Free Cathode Catalysts in High Power Density Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells",ACS Appl. Energy Mater.3, 10209 (2020).

      J. C. Douglin, J. R. Varcoe, D. R. Dekel, "A high-temperature anion-exchange membrane fuel cell",J. Power Sources Adv.5, 100023 (2020).

      X. Peng, D. Kulkarni, Y. Huang, T. J. Omasta, B. Ng, Y. Zheng, L. Wang, J. M. LaManna, D. S. Hussey, J. R. Varcoe, I. V. Zenyuk, W. E. Mustain, "Using operando techniques to understand and design high performance and stable alkaline membrane fuel cells",Nature Commun.11, 3561 (2020).

      Y. Zheng, T. J. Omasta, X. Peng, L. Wang, J. R. Varcoe, B. S. Pivovar, W. E. Mustain, "Quantifying and elucidating the effect of CO2 on the thermodynamics, kinetics and charge transport of AEMFCs",Energy Environ. Sci., 12, 2806 (2019).

      T. R. Willson, I. Hamerton, J. R. Varcoe, R. Bance-Soualhi, "Radiation-grafted cation-exchange membranes: an initial ex situ feasibility study into their potential use in reverse electrodialysis",Sustainable Energy Fuels, 3, 1682 (2019).

      L. Wang, X. Peng, W. E. Mustain, J. R. Varcoe, "Radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes: the switch from low- to high-density polyethylene leads to remarkably enhanced fuel cell performance",Energy Environ. Sci., 12, 1575  (2019). [Raw data (CC-BY) is available at DOI: 10.15126/surreydata.8050274]

      X. Peng, T. J. Omasta, E. Magliocca, L. Wang, J. R. Varcoe, W. E. Mustain, "N‐doped Carbon CoOx Nanohybrids: The First Precious Metal Free Cathode to Achieve 1.0 W/cm2 Peak Power and 100 h Life in Anion‐Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells"Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed., 58, 1046 (2019).

      A. L. Gonçalves Biancolli, D. Herranz, L. Wang, G. Stehlikova, R. Bance-Soualhi, J. Ponce-Gonzalez, P. Ocon, E. A. Ticianelli, D. K. Whelligan, J. R. Varcoe, E. I. Santiago, "ETFE-based anion-exchange membrane ionomer powders for alkaline membrane fuel cells: a first performance comparison of head-group chemistry",J. Mater. Chem. A, 6, 24330 (2018).

      L. Wang, M. Bellini, H. A. Miller, J. R. Varcoe, "A high conductivity ultrathin anion-exchange membrane with 500+ h alkali stability for use in alkaline membrane fuel cells that can achieve 2 W per square cm at 80 degC",J. Mater. Chem. A, 6, 15404 (2018).

      J. Ponce-Gonzalez, J. R. Varcoe, D. K. Whelligan, "Commercial monomer availability leading to missed opportunities? Anion-exchange membranes made from meta-vinylbenzyl chloride exhibit an alkali stability enhancement",ACS Appl. Energy Mater., 1, 1883 (2018).

      T. J. Omasta, A. M. Park, J. M. LaManna, Y. Zhang, X. Peng, L. Wang, D. L. Jacobson, J. R. Varcoe, D. S. Hussey, B. S. Pivovar, W.  E. Mustain, "Beyond Catalysis and Membranes: Visualizing and Solving the Challenge of Electrode Water Accumulation and Flooding in AEMFCs",Energy Environ. Sci., 11, 551 (2018).

      J. Ponce-Gonzalez, I. Ouachan, J. R. Varcoe, D. K. Whelligan, "Radiation-induced grafting of a butyl-spacer styrenic monomer onto ETFE: the synthesis of the most alkali stable radiation-grafted anion-exchange membrane to date",J. Mater. Chem. A, 6, 823 (2018).

      L. Wang, J. J. Brink, J. R. Varcoe, "The first anion-exchange membrane fuel cell to exceed 1 W cm-2 at 70 oC with a non-Pt-group (O2) cathode",Chem. Commun., 53, 11771 (2017).

      L. Wang, J. J. Brink, Y. Liu, A. M. Herring, J. Ponce-Gonzalez, D. K. Whelligan, J. R. Varcoe, "Non-fluorinated pre-irradiation-grafted (peroxidated) LDPE-based anion-exchange membranes with high performance and stability",Energy Environ. Sci., 10, 2154 (2017).

      L. Wang, E. Maggliocca, E. L. Cunningham, W. E. Mustain, S. D. Poynton, R. Escudero-Cid, M. M. Nasef, J. Ponce-Gonzalez, R. Bance-Souahli, R. C. T. Slade, D. K. Whelligan, J. R. Varcoe, "An optimised synthesis of high performance radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes",Green Chem., 19, 831 (2017).

      J. Ponce-Gonzalez, D. K. Whelligan, L. Wang, R. Bance-Soualhi, Y. Wang, Y. Peng, H. Peng, D. C. Apperley, H. N. Sarode, T. P. Pandey, A. G. Divekar, S. Seifert, A. M. Herring, L. Zhuang, J. R. Varcoe, "High performance aliphatic-heterocyclic benzyl-quaternary ammonium radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes",Energy Environ. Sci., 9, 3724 (2016). 

      Other showcased publications:

      J. Zhang, Y. He, K. Zhang, X. Liang, R. Bance-Soualhi, Y. Zhu, X. Ge, M. A. Shehzad, W. Yu, Z. Ge, L. Wu, J. R. Varcoe, T. W. Xu, "Cation–dipole interaction that creates ordered ion channels in an anion exchange membrane for fast OH− conduction", AIChE J.67, e17133 (2021).

      R. Ren, X. Wang, H. Chen, H. A. Miller, I. Salam, J. R. Varcoe, L. Wu, Y. Chen, H.-G. Liao, E. Liu, F. Bartoli, F. Vizza, Q. Jia, Q. He, "Reshaping the Cathodic Catalyst Layer for Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells: From Heterogeneous Catalysis to Homogeneous Catalysis",Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 60, 4049 (2021).

      Y. Zheng, G. Huang, M. Mandal, J. R. Varcoe, P. A. Kohl, W. E. Mustain, "Editors’ Choice—Power-Generating Electrochemical CO2 Scrubbing from Air Enabling Practical AEMFC Application",J. Electrochem. Soc.168, 024504 (2021).

      K. M. Keek, C. M> Reed, B. Pivovar, K.-D. Kreuer, J. R. Varcoe, R. Bance-Soualhi, "The alkali degradation of LDPE-based radiation-grafted anion-exchange membranes studied using different ex situ methods",RSC Adv.10, 36467 (2020).

      J. Muller, A. Zhegur, U. Krewer, J. R. Varcoe, D. R. Dekel, "A practical ex-situ technique to measure the chemical stability of anion-exchange membranes under conditions simulating fuel cell environment",ACS Mater. Lett., 2, 168 (2020).

      M. N. Sweilam, S. F. Cordery,S. Totti, E. G. Velliou, P. Campagnolo, J. R. Varcoe, M. Begoña Delgado-Charro, C. Crean, "Textile-based non-invasive lithium drug monitoring: A proof-of-concept study for wearable sensing",Biosensors & Bioelectronics, 150, 111897 (2020).

      X. Liang, M. A. Shehzad, Y. Zhu, L. Wang, X. Ge, J. Zhang, Z. Yang, L. Wu, J. R. Varcoe, T. Xu, "Ionomer Cross-linking Immobilization of Catalyst Nanoparticles for High Performance Alkaline Membrane Fuel Cell",Chemistry of Materials,  31, 7812 (2019).

      M. Wang, H. Zhang, G. Thirunavukkarasu, I. Salam, J. R. Varcoe, P. Mardle, X. Li, S. Mu, S. Du, "Ionic liquid-modified microporous ZnCoNC-based electrocatalysts for polymer electrolyte fuel cells",ACS Energy Lett., 4, 2104 (2019).

      M. Bellini, M. V. Pagliaro, A. Lenarda, P. Fornasiero, M. Marelli, C. Evangelisti, M. Innocenti, Q. Jia, S. Mukerjee, J. Jankovic, L. Wang, J. R. Varcoe, C. B. Krishnamurthy, I. Grinberg, E. Davydova, D. R. Dekel, H. A. Miller, F. Vizza, "Palladium−Ceria Catalysts with Enhanced Alkaline Hydrogen Oxidation Activity for Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells",ACS Appl. Energy Mater., 2, 4999 (2019).

      R. E. Smith, S. Totti, E. Velliou, P. Campagnolo, S. M. Hingley-Wilson, N. I. Ward, J. R. Varcoe, C. Crean, "Development of a novel highly conductive and flexible cotton yarn for wearable pH sensor technology",Sensors Actuators B: Chem., 287, 338 (2019).

      Y. Zhu, L. Ding, X. Liang, M. A. Shehzad, L. Wang, X. Ge, Y. He, L. Wu, J. R. Varcoe, T. Xu, "Beneficial use of rotatable-spacer side-chains in alkaline anion exchange membrane fuel cells",Energy Environ. Sci., 11, 3472 (2018).

      M.N. Sweilam, J.R. Varcoe, C. Crean, "Fabrication and Optimization of Fiber-Based Lithium Sensor: A Step towards Wearable Sensors for Lithium Drug Monitoring in Interstitial Fluid",ACS Sensors, 3, 1802 (2018).

      Y. Zheng, U. Ash, R. P. Pandey, A. G. Ozioko, J. Ponce-González, M. Handl, T. Weissbach, J. R. Varcoe, S. Holdcroft, M. W. Liberatore, R. Hiesgen, D. R. Dekel, "Water Uptake Study of Anion Exchange Membranes",Macromolecules, 51, 3264 (2018).

      W.H. Lee, C.Crean, J. R. Varcoe, R. Bance-Soualhi, "A Raman spectro-microscopic investigation of ETFE-based radiation-grafted anion-exchange membrane",RSC Adv., 7, 47726 (2017).

      Y. Lu, L. Wang, K. Preuss, M. Qiao, M.-M. Titirici, J. R. Varcoe, Q. Cai, "Halloysite-derived nitrogen-doped carbon electrocatalysts for anion exchange membrane fuel cells",J. Power Sources, 372, 82 (2017).

      T. J. Omasta, L. Wang, X. Peng, C. A. Lewis, J. R. Varcoe, W. E. Mustain, "Importance of balancing membrane and electrode water in anion exchange membrane fuel cells",J. Power Sources, 375, 205 (2018).

      J. R. Varcoe featured in W. Germer, "International experts meet in Germany to discuss trends in anion exchange membranes",Fuel Cell Bulletin, volume 2014, Issue 10, pp. 12-15.

      T. P. Pandey, A. M. Maes, H. N. Sarode, B. D Peters, S. Lavinia, Ki Vezzu, Y. Yang, S. Poynton, J. R. Varcoe, S. Seifert, M. Liberatore, V. Di Noto, A. Herring, "Interplay between water uptake, ion interactions, and conductivity in an e-beam grafted poly(ethylene-co-tetrafluoroethylene) anion exchange membrane",Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17, 4367 (2015).

      A. Ong, K. K. Inglis, D. K. Whelligan, S. Murphy, J. R. Varcoe, "Effect of cationic molecules on the oxygen reduction reaction on fuel cell grade Pt/C (20%wt) catalyst in potassium hydroxide (aq, 1 mol dm-3)",Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17, 12135 (2015).

      S. D. Poynton, R. C. T. Slade, T. Omasta, W. E. Mustain, R. Escudero Cid, P. Ocón, J. R. Varcoe, "Preparation of radiation-grafted powders for use as anion exchange ionomers in alkaline polymer electrolyte fuel cells",J. Mater. Chem. A, 2, 5124 (2014).

      C. A. Hancock, A. Ong, P. R. Slater, J. R. Varcoe, "Development of CaMn1-xRuxO3-y (x = 0 and 0.15) oxygen reduction catalysts for use in low temperature electrochemical devices containing alkaline electrolytes: Ex situ testing using the rotating ring-disk electrode voltammetry method.",J. Mater. Chem. A, 2, 3047 (2014).