The finite petroleum feedstock and the increased concentration of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere have led to the concept of renewable CO2 utilization. The use of CO2 as a starting material for the chemical industry would not only relieve environmental pressures on our society, but it is also vastly abundant; with approximately 300 billion tons, CO2 is the most abundant carbon source in the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, a driver for investment in CO2 utilization will be the ability to maintain security in the supply of sustainable fuels and commodity chemicals that have traditionally relied on non-renewable petrochemical sources.
Currently, approximately 75% of the world’s energy demand is covered by fuels, while only 25% by electricity. Photovoltaics, wind and other renewable energy sources can only cover the electricity demand. There is currently no viable solution to produce fuels on a global scale in developed nations in a post-fossil era. This ambitious and innovative project tackles the challenge to produce renewable fuels through the conversion of CO2 to SynGas (CO + H2), which can be subsequently transformed into liquid hydrocarbons through the known Fischer-Tropsch process, and it would address the three quarters of the global energy demand.
Conventional heterogeneous catalysis, electrocatalysis and photocatalysis are presently the most commonly used methods of reducing CO2 to useful products. All of these techniques require an energetic input (thermal energy, electricity and light). The sun delivers solar energy to the Earth with a power of >120,000 TW, which greatly exceeds the current annual global energy consumption of ~15 TW, and is thus the most sustainable source of energy available to humanity.
The ultimate goal of this project is converting CO2 to SynGas with the use of solar light as energy source. In addition, water an extremely abundant, non-toxic and sustainable resource will be used as electron and proton donor.
Fields of science
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