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Energy materials

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Sustainable approaches for renewable energy conversion to fuels and chemicals

The aim of this E-MRS symposium is to contribute to the development of sustainable approaches for the storage of renewable energy (i.e., solar and wind) through its conversion into (solar) fuels and chemicals using abundant molecules, such as CO2, H2O and N2 or other low-cost industrial precursors. It will cope from the development of novel catalyst materials in the broadest sense, as well as new routes of fabrication and up to the scaling up from (photo)electrochemical cells to feasible pilot-scale and/or industrial systems.

Scope:

To efficiently convert solar photons or renewal electricity into sustainable fuels and chemicals, the development of radically new electrochemical, photochemical, photo-electrochemical and thermochemical catalytic processes is the key. These new processes must be energy-efficient, selective, and based on earth-abundant and non-critical elements that constitutes one of the major research challenges.

Catalytic materials and systems, including e.g. electrocatalysts, photocatalysts and the combination of both, exist but are nowadays still limited by their poor efficiency, low product selectivity, high cost, and rarity, making current sustainable processes too expensive to compete with fossil-based ones. Furthermore, anode and cathode electrode configuration, electrolyte composition, membranes, electrochemical cell design, endurance and reliability are issues that need strong improvement from current achievements.

Additional technological challenges are associated with the scale-up and integration of sustainable processes. Furthermore, there are also many social challenges associated with the reshaping of the energy landscape. However, reaching the objectives of 80 to 95 percent reduction of EU CO2 emissions called for by the Paris Agreement by year 2050, will require swift and targeted efforts toward sustainable fuels and chemicals in the immediate future.

So, there are three levels of grand challenges: (i) the development and discovery of new catalysts and processes, (ii) scale-up and integration of new processes, and (iii) the engagement of all societal stakeholders.

On the one hand, basic for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals is the electrochemical water splitting, which produces molecular hydrogen (H2) to be used as a feedstock or fuel. However, all known OER catalysts have significant overpotentials and could still be improved. At the same time the use of (photo)catalytic anodes to oxidize precursors to produce chemicals of interest for the industry and consumers is still very poorly explored.

On the other hand, other important electrochemical reactions involve the reduction of CO2 and N2 to produce hydrocarbons, oxygenates, ammonia and other added value products. However, neither of these reduction reactions have active or selective enough catalysts. Specifically, for CO2 reduction, making (longer) hydrocarbon or alcohol products, compatible with the current energy sector and chemical industry, need to reduce more and more the used overpotentials. Likewise, for N2 reduction, both activity and selectivity require significant improvement to be industrially feasible. General challenges here include the development of modular and robust reactor concepts that facilitate operation under dynamic, transient, and intermittent conditions.

These are the topics we will cover in the envisaged symposium and will bring experts from Europe and abroad to give their views on this exciting and timely research topic. Furthermore, we will devote one half day of the symposium to a commemorative session on the 50 years anniversary of the first publication (i.e., A. Fujishima, K. Honda, Bull. Chem. Soc. Japan 1971, 44, 1148) on artificial photosynthesis and the production of solar fuels.

Hot topics to be covered by the symposium:

  1. CO2 reduction:
          CO2 Capture,
          Photo/electro/catalysis for synthesis from CO2 (formic, syngas, ethylene, methanol, ethanol, propanol…)
  2. Hydrogen production.   
          Catalyst materials for water splitting.
          Photo-electrocatalysis for water splitting
          Seawater hydrogen production
  3. Catalyst for decontamination
          Materials for Nitrates reduction.
          Plastic/microplastic destruction
          Metal recovery
          Other photo-electrocatalytic methods for water decontamination
  4. Synthesis of added value products
          Materials for Photocatalysis, electrocatalysis and photo-electrocatalysis of added value chemicals
          N2 reduction.
          New routes for the fabrication of added value products 
          Production of biofuels for aviation and heavy transport
  5. Artificial photosynthesis
  6. Thermo-conversion and Bioconversion related processes.
  7. Characterization and modelling
          In situ and Operando techniques.
          Theory and modelling
          Advanced characterization.
  8. Scaling up reactors.
  9. Catalyst degradation mechanisms and regeneration.

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Symposium organizers
Ann MAGNUSONDepartment of Chemistry - Ångström Laboratory

Uppsala University, Box 523 SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden

+46 18 471 6582
ann.magnuson@kemi.uu.se
Bert M. WECKHUYSENUtrecht University

Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Universiteitsweg 99, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherlands

+31 30 253 4328
b.m.weckhuysen@uu.nl
Francisco FABREGAT-SANTIAGOInstitute of Advanced Materials (INAM) Universitat Jaume I

Avda V. Sos Baynat s/n 12006 Castelló de la Plana, Spain

+34 964 387537
fran.fabregat@uji.es
Frédéric CHANDEZONSyMMES UMR 5819

IRIG - CEA Grenoble - 17 rue des Martyrs – F 38054 Grenoble, Cedex 9, France

frederic.chandezon@cea.fr