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Solar-driven Electrocatalytic Biomass Upgrading to Value-added Chemicals

Project description

Solar energy to power biomass conversion

Climate change and the urgency of a transition from fossil fuels render renewable technology an instrumental factor of change. Falling costs of production facilitate the increase of renewable solar and wind energy generation systems. In addition, the idea to replace fossil resources should be associated with the use of renewable technologies to absorb the carbon-based chemicals the petrochemical industry produces. Biomass emerges as a source of carbon that is abundant and potentially sustainable. Value-added biomass-derived compounds have been traditionally examined with the use of thermocatalytic processes on noble metals. The EU-funded SOLBIOCHEM project will develop new electrocatalytic materials generated from earth-abundant transition metal oxides and sulphides for the solar-driven upgrade of biomass-derived compounds.


The urgency of addressing climate change and the plummeting costs of renewable solar and wind-generated electricity put these technologies at the forefront of the energy transition to move away from fossil fuels.Moreover as our reliance on fossil resources is decreasing, it is important to think not only about replacing them as an energy source, but also about using renewable technologies to take over the carbon-based chemicals produced by the petrochemical industry. To achieve this, the most abundant and potentially sustainable source of carbon is the biomass, which stores contemporary carbon, and can be readily harvested, transported and stored. Indeed, derivatives of cellulose or the glycerol generated by the growing biofuel industry are prime candidates for the production of value-added compounds in a “bio-refinery”. So far, upgrading of these biomass-derived compounds has traditionally been studied using thermocatalytic processes on noble metals, which presents challenges such as catalyst cost, the need for high temperature and pressurized gases and the generation of coke that can poison and deactivate catalysts. Alternatively, with the access to increasingly cheaper renewable electricity, electrocatalytic processes have a strong appeal, as they are conducted at room temperature, typically rely on abundant H2O as a proton and/or oxygen source, and can provide fine control over the rate and product selectivity through monitoring of the applied potential.

This research proposal aims at developing and studying new electrocatalytic materials made of Earth-abundant transition metal oxides and sulfides, for the valorisation of biomass-derived molecules. The associated performance and mechanisms will be investigated by means of electrochemistry and operando techniques, and integration of the best electrocatalysts with solar energy conversion systems will be explored to demonstrate direct use of sunlight to power biomass conversion in a sustainable fashion.


Net EU contribution
€ 137 423,16
Rue michel ange 3
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 59 284,68