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Converting Sunlight to storable chemical energy

Proposals are expected to address renewable energy technologies that will answer the challenge described in the ""Converting Sunlight Innovation Challenge"" of Mission Innovation, bringing them up to TRL 4 or 5. Beside the technological development, the proposal will have to clearly address the following related aspects: the potential lower environmental impact than the current technologies, possibly through a LCA analysis, the better resource efficiency, issues related to social acceptance or resistance to new energy technologies, related socioeconomic and livelihood issues, and prospective market analysis. The proposal needs to consider all three dimensions of sustainability, resource efficiency and scalability, i.e. not using materials which are uncommon, dangerous or scarce that could disable its future concept to be used at large scale.

At least one of the following technology-specific challenges has to be addressed:

  • Improved light-harvesting and efficient charge separation in photocatalytic systems;
  • Photoelectrochemical cells – PECs and catalyst development;
  • Thermochemical pathways to energy rich chemicals (using concentrated solar light); and
  • Design and engineering of devices, systems or prototypes integrating together the different processes, with day and night control and applicability for the production of chemical energy rich carriers.

The area of electrolysers efficiently utilizing a renewable electricity input, such as provided by photovoltaics, wind turbines or other sustainable means, is not covered by this challenge.

The proposal must have a plausible pathway to scale the technology to the terawatt scale by 2050, a plausible potential for an EROI > 10 (EROI: Energy returned on energy invested) and the full recyclability of the conversion devices in the context of a circular economy must be ensured.

As part of Mission Innovation actions, the project will be required to contribute towards the activities of the ""Converting Sunlight Innovation Challenge"". Beside solving the technical challenge, the consortium is expected to budget the participation in the development of the Challenge work plan through activities such as dissemination, exchange of researcher and networking as well as through contributing in official meetings.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 to 3 million would allow this challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

To replace fossil energy with sustainable alternatives that provide the same flexibility and convenience of use, we need to store sustainable energy on a large scale and for a long time in new kind of energy storage compounds. This can be done by direct conversion of sunlight into storable chemicals that can be stored for a virtually unlimited time. At present, these processes can be performed at the level of small prototype devices at high cost. Therefore, research and innovation are needed to bring these approaches from infancy to maturity. The production of clean forms of storable chemical energy from direct sunlight is the next step.

Performance breakthroughs, including day and night continuous processes, and cost reductions are a must in order to unlock the potential of technologies converting sunlight to storable chemical energy.

This challenge is fully aligned to the ""Converting Sunlight Innovation Challenge""[[]] identified as a priority in Mission Innovation.

Projects will not only contribute to mitigating climate change through the production of storable chemical energy from the sun, but also enhance energy security and provide opportunities for economic development across the globe.

Projects should show its contribution towards establishing a solid European innovation base and building a sustainable renewable energy system.

Contributing to Mission Innovation aims, projects will deepen the international collaboration in clean energy research and development.