Solar-driven Chemistry refers to a future scenario for chemicals production based on substitution of fossil feed-stocks as energy source and raw materials. The concept of Solar-driven Chemistry is thus not limited to the direct use of photons, but rather refers to direct and indirect ways by which renewable energy can be transformed into chemical energy. Its importance relates to the storage of renewable energy, for which the tipping point is expected to occur in the coming decade.
A key aspect of the Solar-driven Chemistry concept is the creation of a short-term cycle of utilisation of renewable energy sources to produce chemicals and energy vectors. This intensification in the transformation from solar to chemical energy is a key element for sustainability.
A paradigm shift in chemical and energy production involved in this aspect is the shift from “carbon-atom” selectivity with respect to the starting raw material to high energy efficient in storing (renewable) energy in chemical bonds. In this context, SunCoChem will develop new catalyst and catalytic electrodes to work with these energy sources and move from lab to industrial scale.
The production of solar fuels and chemicals, as well as the associated aspects of chemicals energy storage, are among the relevant elements to move to this new Solar-driven Chemistry scenario and, in a long-term perspective, to the possibility of a distributed energy/chemistry production in artificial leaf-type devices. In a broader perspective, Solar-driven Chemistry is a key element of an already started transition to a new economic cycle in chemistry/energy production. It provides opportunities to turn the need for new concepts in catalysis into innovation.
Currently, the European Chemical Industry strongly depends on carbon feedstock imports for energy and chemical manufacturing processes, which are based over 95% on the use of fossil fuels. The chemical industry is the third larger greenhouse gas emitter in Europe with over 30 GtCO2 yearly.
The introduction of sustainable chemistry using renewable resources to exploit CO2 for the production ofchemical products brings an opportunity to an efficient use of resources and preservation of the environment. This will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, in line with the commitments agreed in 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), as well as diversify the resources and be less dependent on carbon feedstock and price fluctuations.
During the project, a modular photoelectrocatalytic tandem reactor (TPER) prototype will be developed and validated in an industrial plant where the conversion of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from DOW-Tarragona will be carried out, to synthesise value-added chemicals that have been historically produced from fossil fuels.