Solar-accelerated carbon dioxide separation to recycle deadly greenhouse gas – pv magazine Australia
Solar panels are now an accepted way to generate clean electricity, and Australia is moving forward on the roadmap towards mass production of clean hydrogen using a two-step solar conversion process – photovoltaic followed by electrolysis. But this month, Associate Professor at Swinburne University of Technology Tianyi Ma received a future Australian Research Council scholarship of more than $ 937,000 to continue his work using solar power directly in photocatalysis, to reuse the abundant carbon dioxide emitted during industrial processes into “solar” fuels such as green methane, methanol and carbon monoxide.
The yields of Ma’s technology are currently lower than those of photovoltaics which have been developed to achieve between 20 and 30% conversion of light into electricity. His work with next-generation carbon dioxide photoreduction catalysts – perovskite-based ferroelectrics – has so far achieved 2-5% solar-fuel efficiency, but it’s increasing.
It is important to note that the materials used are much cheaper than those used in solar panels, offering substantial savings on initial investment and the technology shows potential for co-location with industry, to siphon CO2 from the home. source and produce fuels that can replace high emissions. fossil fuels.
Yes, even these solar fuels, when burned, release carbon into the atmosphere, but they contribute to some extent to achieving a low carbon circular economy – by capturing what is emitted and by producing replacements for the production of new fossil fuels.
“My goal is carbon neutrality,” said the head of the carbon neutrality group at Swinburne University of Technology. fashion magazine. Boom boom!
The race for purity
For a few years, Ma was known for his work using grid-supplied electricity in a process known as electrocatalysis, to reduce CO2 into potentially reusable fuels. “The point is,” he says, “most of the electricity in the grid is still not green, so I recently changed my focus to photocatalysis because I want to use pure renewable energy.
Ma says his work is still “inspired” by electrocatalysis, in that it uses an external power source to accelerate a catalytic reaction. But there is no voltage in the raw sunlight, so “if we can create a little electric field in the semiconductor catalyst …”
Ma identified a new ferroelectric crystalline material that does not have a symmetrical structure: “So it has a little bit of polarization in the structure,” which translates into “an intrinsic and spontaneous electric field” which provides high performance photocatalysis.
Her future scholarship is under the ARC Discovery Scheme, which aims to promote Australia’s strong capacity in basic or ‘blue sky’ research, and generate new ideas, new jobs, economic growth and better quality. of life in Australia, according to the literature.
Ma’s group will use the funding over four years, initially, he says, “to generate high-quality articles, scientific breakthroughs and even patent certain technologies.”
Industrial collaborations in place
Since Swinburne has a strong focus on the application of research to industry, Ma’s project team is also already collaborating with GrapheneX, a pioneer in the field of the synthesis of carbon nanomaterials with high added value, from low cost carbon sources; and with the Clayton Hydrogen Technology Cluster (Clayton H2), one of the 15 national renewable energy platforms supported by National energy resources Australia.
“We are working with GrapheneX to address carbon dioxide emissions from lignite biomass [aka brown coal]- the mining industry, ”Ma says,“ and I can predict that around the middle of the four-year market, we might partly commercialize some of these technologies.
In his new six-month role at Swinburne, which appointed him associate professor at the university’s Center for Translational Atomaterials, Ma has also previously published an article describing a photocatalytic process to produce hydrogen from water from mer, using a novel single-atom platinum catalyst, which yielded a solar-hydrogen quantum efficiency of 22.2% under LED-550 illumination.
It is “among the best catalysts ever reported” for the solar-hydrogen process, said Baohua Jia, founding director of the Center for Translational Atomaterials in February when the the paper has been published.
Potential pathways for carbon atoms lead to much needed fuels
Compared to the separation of carbon dioxide, the photocatalytic separation of water is a cinch, Ma claims, but he was forced to pursue the separation of CO2 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time produce useful chemicals.
The division of carbon dioxide, he says, can take more than six potential routes. It can, for example, be catalyzed to form carbon monoxide, formic acid, ethanol or methanol, the latter three of which are important chemical charges.
“We also performed this photocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide in an aqueous or aqueous solution,” explains Ma, which generates a competing reaction. That is, water will also take part in the reaction and will separate into hydrogen and oxygen.
“So you can never get pure carbon monoxide that way, you always have monoxide with a little bit of hydrogen, which we call syngas – one of the most widely used cooking fuels. residential – there is a huge market for this. “
Ultimately, his project, as described for the Future Fellowship review, is expected to “provide highly efficient photocatalysts and reaction prototypes for carbon dioxide reduction, to mitigate the greenhouse effect and accelerate development. the large-scale use of carbon dioxide for the production of clean fuels by making use of abundant and clean solar energy “; the catalysts and techniques” hold great promise for commercialization and application at the level Of the industry “.
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