During the first three years of their solar powered CO2-to-Fuels research, the “evolutionary” phase, the U of T Solar Fuels Cluster have identified a promising series of nanostructured solar fuel materials, and developed appropriate research methodologies and established the instrumental facilities for their structure characterization, property measurements and catalytic testing [3-7].
Today, champion rates for light-assisted conversion of gaseous CO2 to hydrocarbon fuel molecules achieved by the U of T Solar Fuels Cluster are within an order of magnitude of the mol/h∙gcat target rate. Based on these advances it is envisioned that with continued research and development, fuels made in a solar refinery could gradually replace those produced in a refinery powered by fossil fuels .
The U of T Solar Fuels Cluster and their collaborators will now be involved in major activities aimed at expanding upon and enriching the accrued knowledge of published and patented work gained by the cluster during the evolutionary phase to transition it to the revolutionary phase, aimed at a solar fuels technology [3-7]. In this “revolutionary” phase of the research, the goal is to build upon the basic materials science and engineering experiences they have gained for solar powered conversion of gaseous CO2 to fuels, to combine materials and processes that can achieve technologically significant conversion rates of mol/h∙gcat.
The target is the discovery and development of earth-abundant, low-cost materials able to effectively harvest sunlight, capture CO2 and efficiently drive a cost-effective gas-phase heterogeneous photo-catalytic CO2 conversion process in a solar refinery to form a transportable fuel at a technologically significant rate.
To this end, the focus of their continuing research will be on the discovery of next generation solar fuel materials, through both experimental and theoretical methods, and development of new and improved photo-reactors and processes. This continuing research will comprise:
- Discovery, structure determination and property measurements of nanostructured materials active for gas-phase, light-assisted CO2 photoreduction;
- Evaluation of conversion rates and efficiencies for production of solar fuels, such as CO, CH4, CH3OH by light-assisted, gas-phase heterogeneous catalytic reduction of CO2; and
- Experimental and computational studies of surface chemistry, energetics, kinetics and mechanisms pertinent to these photoreactions.
These studies will be complemented by:
- Engineering optimization of materials catalytic performance; (v) Developing material fabrication technologies for scaling;
- Developing and testing of prototype pilot photoreactors;
- Evaluation of solar concentration on CO2-to-fuel conversion rates, efficiencies, mass and energy balance; and
- Life cycle process modeling to assess material, energy and economic flows and hence the feasibility of making a solar fuels production facility from CO2 for the most active materials.
- L. B. Hoch, T. E. Wood, P. G. O’Brien, K. Liao, L. M. Reyes, C. A. Mims, G. A. Ozin, Advanced Science, 2014, 1, 1400013.
- P. G. O’Brien, A. Sandhel, T. E. Wood, A. Jelle, L. B. Hoch, C. A. Mims, G. A. Ozin, Advanced Science, 2014, 1, 1400001.
- G. A. Ozin, Advanced Materials, 2015, 27, 1957.
- K. K. Ghuman, T. E. Wood, L. B. Hoch, C. A. Mims, G. A. Ozin, C. V. Singh, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2015, 17, 14623.
- G. A. Ozin, Energy and Environmental Science, 2015, 8, 1682.
- J. A. Herron, J. Kim, A. A. Upadhye, G. W. Huber, C. T. Maravelias, Energy and Environmental Science, 2014, 8, 126.