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An Artificial Leaf:  a photo-electro-catalytic cell from earth-abundant materials for sustainable solar production of CO2-based chemicals and fuels

An Artificial Leaf: a photo-electro-catalytic cell from earth-abundant materials for sustainable solar production of CO2-based chemicals and fuels

Objective

A novel concept for a photo-electro-catalytic (PEC) cell able to directly convert water and CO2 into fuels and chemicals (CO2 reduction) and oxygen (water oxidation) using exclusively solar energy will be designed, built, validated, and optimized. The cell will be constructed from cheap multifunction photo-electrodes able to transform sun irradiation into an electrochemical potential difference (expected efficiency > 12%); ultra-thin layers and nanoparticles of metal or metal oxide catalysts for both half-cell reactions (expected efficiency > 90%); and stateof- the-art membrane technology for gas/liquid/products separation to match a theoretical target solar to fuels efficiency above 10%. All parts will be assembled to maximize performance in pH > 7 solution and moderate temperatures (50-80 ºC) as to take advantage of the high stability and favorable kinetics of constituent materials in these conditions. Achieving this goal we will improve the state-of-the-art of all components for the sake of cell integration:

1) Surface sciences: metal and metal oxide catalysts (crystals or nanostructures grown on metals or silicon) will be characterized for water oxidation and CO2 reduction through atomically resolved experiments (scanning probe microscopy) and spatially-averaged surface techniques including surface analysis before, after and in operando electrochemical reactions. Activity and performance will be correlated to composition, thickness, structure and support as to determine the optimum parameters for device integration.

2) Photoelectrodes: This unique surface knowledge will be transferred to the processing of catalytic nanostructures deposited on semiconductors through different methods to match the surface chemistry results through viable up-scaling processes. Multiple thermodynamic and kinetic techniques will be used to characterize and optimize the performance of the interfaces with spectroscopy and photo-electrochemistry tools to identify best matching between light absorbers and chemical catalysts along optimum working conditions (pH, temperature, pressure).

3) Modeling: Materials, catalysts and processes will be modeled with computational methods as a pivotal tool to understand and to bring photo-catalytic-electrodes to their theoretical limits in terms of performance.

The selected optimum materials and environmental conditions as defined from these parallel studies will be integrated into a PEC cell prototype. This design will include ion exchange membranes and gas diffusion electrodes for product separation. Performance will be validated in real working conditions under sun irradiation to assess the technological and industrial relevance of our A-LEAF cell.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Coordinator

FUNDACIO PRIVADA INSTITUT CATALA D'INVESTIGACIO QUIMICA

Address

Avenida Paissos Catalans 16
43007 Tarragona

Spain

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 879 712,50

Participants (12)

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EIDGENOESSISCHE TECHNISCHE HOCHSCHULE ZUERICH

Switzerland

EU Contribution

€ 855 935

UNIVERSITEIT LEIDEN

Netherlands

EU Contribution

€ 619 188,75

FUNDACION IMDEA NANOCIENCIA

Spain

EU Contribution

€ 618 125

ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FEDERALE DE LAUSANNE

Switzerland

EU Contribution

€ 952 272,50

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET WIEN

Austria

EU Contribution

€ 547 612,50

UNIVERSITAT JAUME I DE CASTELLON

Spain

EU Contribution

€ 443 770

IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 488 522,50

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAT DARMSTADT

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 686 250

FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM JULICH GMBH

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 537 366,25

UNIVERSITE DE MONTPELLIER

France

EU Contribution

€ 686 818,75

CONSORZIO INTERUNIVERSITARIO NAZIONALE PER LA SCIENZA E TECNOLOGIA DEI MATERIALI

Italy

EU Contribution

€ 577 787,50

COVESTRO DEUTSCHLAND AG

Germany

EU Contribution

€ 87 500

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 732840

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 January 2017

  • End date

    31 December 2020

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.2.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 7 980 861,25

  • EU contribution

    € 7 980 861,25

Coordinated by:

FUNDACIO PRIVADA INSTITUT CATALA D'INVESTIGACIO QUIMICA

Spain