The SunCoChem project aims to provide the chemical industry with an alternative to produce oxo-chemicals without using raw materials derived from carbon or oil. The project will develop a photoelectrocatalytic tandem reactor to manufacture valuable chemical oxo-products from renewable energies based on CO2, H2O and solar energy.
This will be achieved by process intensification, coupling a solar-driven CO2 reduction to CO/H2O oxidation to O2 with C-C bond carbonylation reaction catalysed by novel multifunctional hybrid photoelectrocatalysts.
Based on a single-unit CO2 capture and conversion architecture to design a self-sufficient device, SunCoChem’s innovation intends to reduce costs and CO2 emissions, decreasing the dependence of the European Chemical Industry on carbon-based raw materials.
Start date – 1 May 2020 End date – 30 April 2024
Sustainable oxo-products produced from CO2
Valuable chemicals from renewable energy sources and waste CO2 from industrial processes
SunCoChem will be the first project at developing a self-biased photo-reactor to efficiently produce oxo-products from CO2, water and sunlight. This new technology will produce three oxo-chemicals of interest for important chemical companies in Europe based on the use of CO2 as a renewable carbon source in comparison to actual routes based on the use of fossil fuels.
SunCoChem project aims at exploiting a tandem photoelectrochemical CO2 conversion route to produce CO as a key intermediate for the in-situ CO-carbonylation of chemicals to produce oxo-products of the chemical industry.
Advance beyond the state of the art
SunCoChem addresses three key challenges that currently hinder large-scale organic photo-electro synthetic processes to enhance the energy conversion efficiency, selectivity and scalability
Limited stability of electrolytes
Aqueous electrolytes are limited in stability by the onset potentials of the water reduction and oxidation reactions. Ionic liquids (ILs) are currently evaluated at lab-scale as potential non-aqueous electrolytes but long-term stability remains challenging.
SunCoChem will develop new stable fluorinated and fluorine-free ionic liquids (ILs) as non-aqueous electrolytes, providing relatively high ionic conductivity and a broad stability window.
Low reactant solubility
The development of PEC organic transformations is currently challenging for the future Chemical Industry due to the limited solubility of organic reagents in aqueous electrolytes present in the cathodic/anodic cells. Currently Ionic Liquids (ILs) are considered as the most ideal solvents.
In SunCoChem, the use of new stable fluorine-free ILs as electrolytes will provide a suitable media for solubilisation of organic reagents (i.e. olefins such as Butene and Limonene) and carrying on innovative PEC organic transformations overcoming mass-transfer limitations.
Selectivity over reaction pathways
Due to energy and process efficiency considerations, efficient organic photoelectro-synthetic processes require careful control of competing side reactions to favour the selective formation of the desired product.
SunCoChem will couple the 2-electron reduction of CO2 to CO, which is by far the most selective and highest-yield selective process at low overpotentials, with the in-situ valorisation of by-products through a very well-known established and industrially applied CO-carbonylation process.