UofT Solar Fuels Cluster

The U of T Solar Fuels Cluster is an interdisciplinary research team devoted to developing scalable, cost effective materials solutions towards using CO2 as a chemical feedstock for valuable products. Leveraging the expertise of some of Canada's leading chemists, engineers, and material scientists, we hope to initiate a paradigm-shifting zero-emission CO2 economy.

June 15th, 2018: New Materials Discovery: Machine-Enhanced Human Creativity

an artsy picture

In this article, Geoffrey Ozin and Todd Siler, a long time practicing chemist and artist, ask whether machine learning will ever be creative enough to match the innate ingenuity of humans at discovering and synthesizing an entirely new class of materials.

June 1st, 2018: Congratulations, Young Li,on your paper in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces!

palladium tungsten structure

Palladium-tungsten oxide hetero-nanostructure Pd@HyWO3-x is shown to function as a high performance photocatalyst for enabling the gas-phase reduction of CO2 to CO at an impressive rate of 3.0 mmol gcat-1 h-1. A photochemical pathway operates via bandgap excitation of HyWO3-x along with photothermal contributions arising from non-radiative electron relaxation in Pd nanocrystals and the plasmon band of HyWO3-x. Kinetic analysis revealed a decrease in the activation energy for CO formation in the dark compared to the light with kinetics being more CO2 dependent in the dark to more H2 dependent in the light. Operando diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy measurements provided valuable insight into the surface chemistry responsible for the conversion of CO2 to CO formation. The Pd@HyWO3-x system provides a blueprint for rationally designing and optimizing catalysts that enable gas-phase photothermal reduction of CO2.

May 11, 2018: Congratulations Lu Wang, Meikun Xia, Hong Wang, Keyfeng Huang, and Chenxi Qian on your Joule Perspective, "Greening Ammonia toward the Solar Ammonia Refinery"

Solar Ammonia Schematic

The century-old Haber-Bosch process for the production of ammonia from N2 and H2 is an energy demanding and greenhouse gas intensive, high temperature and high pressure, fossil powered process. A contemporary challenge is to replace this unsustainable process by a sustainable one that produces ammonia from N2 and H2O, powered by solar electricity, solar heat or solar photons. In this Perspective, we present an overview of current research activity and technology development in this area together with a high level energy analysis shown in the graphic of the different ways being explored to achieve the lofty goal of a 'solar ammonia refinery'.

May 7, 2018: U of T Solar Fuels Group among top six finalists announced for Ontario's Solutions 2030 Challenge

Solutions 2030 Challenge

Ontario's Centres of Excellence (OCE) has announced the first cohort of finalists for Ontario's Solutions 2030 Challenge - a three-phase competition over three years designed to accelerate the development of technologies with strong potential to help Ontario meet its 2030 emissions targets as part of Ontario's Climate Change Action Plan. The intitiative is part of the province's broader TargetGHG program, which is administered by OCE on behalf of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

May 4, 2018: U of T Solar Fuels Group awarded major funding for greenhouse gas project

Photohermal

Professor Geoff Ozin and the Solar Fuels Team at the University of Toronto have been awarded close to $1 million from the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) to translate their greenhouse gas research to scale. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science made the announcement at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference on May 1. The project proposes a technology capable of recycling CO2, either from the atmosphere or from concentrated industrial sources, into value-added chemicals and fuels. Ontario’s Low Carbon Innovation Fund will help researchers, entrepreneurs and companies create and bring to market innovative low-carbon technologies. Moridi says that LCIF initiatives such as this, “will help us fight climate change while preparing industries to thrive in a competitive, low-carbon economy.” Ozin is excited to begin work on the Greenhouse Gases to Fuels project, commenting “working with the Low Carbon Innovation Fund, we intend to demonstrate that our G2F technology is an effective approach to making Ontario both environmentally sustainable and economically successful."

Discovery 2018

May 1st, 2018 - The U of T Solar Fuels Team Showcase its Greenhouse gas to Fuels Technology at OCE Discovery 2018 at the Toronto Convention Center, which is the leading innovation-to-commercialization conference in Canada. The Discovery exhibition brings together key players from industry, academia, government, the investment community as well as entrepreneurs and students to pursue collaboration opportunities, and it is with much excitement that U of T Solar Fuels Team looks forward to participating. For more information on the Discovery 2018, please visit: www.ocediscovery.com

Michael Ertl

April 25, 2018 - Congratulations to Michael Ertl and coworkers for their paper in Chemistry - A European Journal: It turns out the answer lies in the soil! The synthetic version of a naturally occurring iron mineral named after a Nobel laureate (mössbauerite), which has been previously studied by geologists and soil scientists, was found to be a promising ‘iron only’ electrocatalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). In a four-way collaboration between the Universities of Bayreuth, Bochum, Munich and Toronto, the electrocatalytic performance of synthetic mössbauerite is demonstrated to be competitive with the best-known ‘iron only’ electrocatalysts. Significantly, the structure of mössbauerite offers plenty of opportunities for compositional modifications in the quest for a champion earth-abundant, low-cost, non-toxic electrocatalyst.

methanol

April 6, 2018 - Methanol Then and Now: Methanol has a long and fascinating history that can be traced to its use for embalming mummies in ancient Egypt. Today, there are over 90 methanol plants across the globe, with a production capacity of around 110 megatons. While the dominant feed stocks for making methanol continue to be natural gas, coal, biomass, and waste, there is a noticeable increase in interest in using carbon dioxide as the source of carbon for value-added chemicals and fuels.

high speed droplet

April 5, 2018 - In Flight and Fight – The Turbulence Carbon Dioxide Causes: Recent findings indicate that excessive levels of carbon dioxide are wreaking havoc on air travel. Specifically, increasing levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide can increase both the intensity and frequency of clear air turbulence associated with more powerful jet stream related wind shears. The phenomena arises from an increase in the temperature and density gradients between the equator and the poles induced by the combined effects of a warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere. According to recent modelling studies, climate scientists now predict that there will be a 40-170% increase in clear air turbulence incidences on transatlantic flights if the amount of atmospheric CO2 is to grow to twice that of pre-Industrial levels.

solar methanol

April 5, 2018 - Congratulations, Lu, Mireille, and Co-Authors, on your Solar Methanol Paper in Joule! The current fashion for synthesizing methanol continues to be the high pressure and high temperature heterogeneous catalytic conversion of synthesis gas (CO-H2) using alumina supported nanostructured copper-zinc oxide as the catalyst and fossil fuel to power the process. It is an energy intensive process with a large CO2 greenhouse gas footprint and a deleterious effect on the climate. Thus, it would be highly desirable to produce methanol in a sustainable way and use CO2 as feedstock and solar energy to drive the synthesis. Solar technologies that facilitate the efficient conversion of CO2 and H2 into methanol offer a sustainable path to the production of renewable fuels. Furthermore, since about 30% of all known chemicals come from methanol, the production of solar methanol appears to be a “greener” strategy for the chemical and petrochemical industries.In this breakthrough report in Joule, we present a “solar methanol maker”, a rod-shaped In2O3-x(OH)y nanocrystal superstructure, that can efficiently hydrogenate CO2 to methanol at atmospheric pressure with a methanol selectivity for more than 50%. The remarkable productionrate of 0.06 mmol gcat-1h-1 and excellent long-term stability of this catalyst in solar methanol synthesis makes it an interesting candidate for converting CO2 to methanol at an industrial scale in a CO2 refinery.

mireille

March 29, 2018 - Congratulations, Mireille! Mireille has received some great news, the award of a prestigious graduate scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada to support her doctoral research in the area of solar fuels. This scholarship recognises the outstanding performance of graduate students in their PhD studies.

high speed droplet

March 29, 2018 - Drop-In Solar Fuels from Carbon Dioxide and Water: Performance Indicators: From electrochemistry to photochemistry to thermochemistry, there exist many possible approaches to converting CO2 and H2O to liquid hydrocarbons using solar energy. However, the ever-growing variety of routes to achieving solar fuels calls for careful evaluation of their feasibility in a standardized manner. The combination of four key performance indicators, namely, product selectivity, material stability, mass conversion, and solar-to-fuel efficiency, can provide a comprehensive assessment of the technology.

Jia Jia

March 23, 2018 - Congratulations, Jia Jia!

Jia Jia has just learned she has won the much-coveted "Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad" from the China Scholarship Council. This award, founded by the Chinese government in 2003, recognises the academic excellence of self-financed Chinese students studying overseas. The award selection panel considers only students with outstanding performance in their PhD studies. No more than 500 young talents all around the world win the award each year. Well done Jia!

fact or artifact

March 21, 2018 - Nitrogen Reduction Reactions - Fact or Artifact: Artifacts that arise from adventitious carbon contamination of catalysts used in the electrochemical, photochemical and thermochemical reduction of CO2 to synthetic chemicals and fuels, especially at low total conversions and low conversion rates, can only be authenticated through rigorous 13CO2 isotope-labeling proof-of-product experimentation to avoid the reporting of artifacts. Similarly, in the reduction of N2 to ammonia in aqueous solution using the aforementioned approaches, one must be equally diligent to apply strong checks to prevent the reporting of false-positives that can originate from impurities in the catalysts and N2 feed gas, and which require robust 15N2 isotope labeling to ensure unequivocal identification of the source of the ammonia. Graphic image courtesy of Chenxi Qian.

solar dry reforming

March 16, 2018 - Congratulations Alex Tavasoli on your Commentary in Joule, Green Syngas by Solar Dry Reforming: Killing Two Greenhouse Gases with One Stone! A photothermal dry reforming process has been developed that efficiently transforms two potent greenhouse gases, CH4 and CO2, into industrially valuable synthesis gas (a mixture of CO and H2), using a uniquely structured nickel-silica nanoscale catalyst that is impressively resistant to deactivation by coking. This exciting new discovery provides an opportunity to “kill two greenhouse gases with one stone.”

isomorphous substitution

March 12, 2018 - Congratulations Yuchan Dong, Kulbir Ghuman, and Co-Authors on your Advanced Science Paper Entitled Tailoring Surface Frustrated Lewis Pairs of In2O3-x(OH)y for Gas-Phase Heterogeneous CO2 Hydrogenation by Isomorphous Substitution of In3+ with Bi3+.The excited state acidity and basicity of the surface frustrated Lewis pair, in oxygen vacancy and hydroxide defect-laden BizIn2-zO3-xOHy, can be chemically tailored, by controlling the level of isomorphous substitution of Bi(III) for In(III) in the Bixbyite crystal lattice. This makes it possible to optimize the catalytic performance of the solar powered reverse water gas shift reaction, CO2 + H2 → CO + H2O.

January 6, 2018 - Well done Ab and co-authors Kulbir K. Ghuman, Paul G. O’Brien, Mohamad Hmadeh and Amit Sandhel on your solar fuels paper published in Advanced Energy Materials, January 2018. In this work you demonstrate a highly efficient ambient temperature ‘Solar Sabatier’ process whereby CO2 hydrogenation to form CH4 is efficiently catalyzed, by nanostructured RuO2 on a silicon photonic crystal support, at the remarkably high rate of 4.4 mmol gcat-1h-1. The origin of the exceptional rate of this Solar Sabatier reaction stems from a combination of the large surface area coupled with the unique light-trapping, broadband optical absorption and photothermal properties of the silicon photonic crystal support that enhances the conversion rate of the solar powered RuO2 catalysed Sabatier reaction, CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O.

December 27, 2017 - The U of T Solar Fuels Team has been selected as one of 20 semi-finalists from 160 applicant’s world wide, in the Ontario Center of Excellence Solutions 2030 Challenge Phase 1 competition, to find technological solutions to the greenhouse gas emissions problem in Ontario. The strategy proposed by the solar fuels team focuses on the development of light-powered processes for the conversion of CO2 to synthetic fuels, via gas-phase heterogeneous hydrogenation photocatalysis. This goal of the project is to transition a laboratory CO2-to-fuels prototype to a scaled-up CO2-to-fuels demonstration unit. Eight winning teams from Phase 1 will receive up to $250,000 in Phase 2 with 10 months to reduce their proposed solution to practice. The winning team in Phase 2 will be eligible for up to $3,000,000 Phase 3 funding to bring their transformative technology to market. The mandate of the Solutions 2030 Challenge is for winning teams and industry to collaborate and envision a path forward to tackle climate change in Ontario and around the world.

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Solar Fuels From The Sun

Not Fossil Fuels From The Earth