Upgrading of CO2 to Methanol with Integrated Photocatalysis
The recycling of CO2, primarily from flue gas, into useful materials is a major technological step towards stemming the damaging effects of burning fossil fuels. However, upgrading CO2 requires a significant input of energy, either directly through heating or indirectly by reacting it with a high-energy co-reactant. Making such a process truly carbon-neutral (or negative) requires the clever use of a carbon-free energy source. The objectives of this project are to develop a novel, integrated photocatalysis process that enables the conversion of flue-gas CO2 into methanol, a valuable commodity chemical. The project will develop a highly efficient, low-cost photocatalyst with an engineered structure that allows an exceptionally large portion of the solar spectrum to be utilized. The photocatalyst will be assisted by reactor and process innovations that both enhance the overall performance of the system and allow it to be integrated into industrial sites readily. During the course of this two-phase project, a family of catalysts will be synthesized and screened, identifying the rate-limiting step for each. The optimal formulation will be then be incorporated into a practical photoreactor design and tested for stability under conditions that mimic the expected industrial conditions. A techno-economic evaluation of the process will verify the economic competitiveness of the new process. This technology recycles CO2 by adding carbon-free energy derived from sunlight. The production of methanol is carbon-negative while being able to produce this valuable commodity at a cost lower than conventional, fossil-based routes. As a large-scale, global commodity, methanol produced by this route represents a carbon sink that is one to two orders of magnitude larger than other popular targets for CO2utilization. This technology is scientifically advanced and environmentally friendly.
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