Actualidad y noticias

A whitepaper on Solar-Driven Chemistry for a sustainable future

26 enero 2017

Driving chemical reactions using solar energy is not just possible, but also necessary for a sustainable future. That is the main conclusion of a recently published whitepaper on Solar-Driven Chemistry published by the European Association of Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) after a series of presentations and brainstorming workshops held in Berlin in October 2015 with participant experts from all over Europe.

Driving chemical reactions using solar energy is not just possible, but also necessary for a sustainable future. That is the main conclusion of a recently published whitepaper on Solar-Driven Chemistry published by the European Association of Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) after a series of presentations and brainstorming workshops held in Berlin in October 2015 with participant experts from all over Europe.

A visionary concept mimicking nature

These experts identify the opportunities and challenges of this visionary concept that could in the long run replace fossil fuels. "This is a long-term innovative scientific and technological endeavour to achieve sustainable chemical production", the text says. The goal is to develop the necessary knowledge to accomplish the devices and processes that will progressively allow "the substitution of fossil fuel as the main chemical and energy source". Actually, the whitepaper does not focus on the conversion of solar energy into electricity or heat, but instead targets the use of solar energy "directly for the production of fuels, chemicals and materials, thus mimicking nature".

Water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide would be the primary feedstocks for solar-driven chemistry. The main products would be molecular hydrogen and a series of carbon-based chemical compounds. "Many scientific and technical problems still have to be solved", the authors said. "Transfer from basic chemical research to industrial applications usually takes 20 to 30 years. However, intermediate short- and medium-term objectives, which are necessary to enable the long-term goal, can also generate new knowledge, which will provide wider benefits to society and an improvement of the industrial competitiveness".

Inclusive action and future scenarios

The goal requires a broad and inclusive action driven by chemists, with research encompassing catalysis, electrochemistry, photochemistry and nanosciences, in concert with semiconductor physics, engineering, biosciences and social sciences. And transferring laboratory results to industrial applications will certainly be a challenge. Still, the group of experts already foresee three consecutive future scenarios.

In the short term, electricity generated by photovoltaic devices and transported through the grid could be used for powering commercial water electrolysers that splits water into its components and thus generate molecular hydrogen, that can be used as a fuel or as an intermediate for the production of carbon-based fuels and chemicals. This is expected within the next five years.

Options for solar-driven chemical processes. Credit: EuCheMS Credit  Hydrokemós*

Within a decade, experts expect the first prototype demonstrators of direct production of simple-carbon based compounds of high energy value (such as formic acid, methanol, or acetic acid, among others) by coupling water electrolysis and electrochemical reduction of CO2. In a longer term, hydrogen or carbon-based compounds could be produced directly by photoinduced reactions.

A paradigm shift in need of funds

Solar-driven chemistry is a radical paradigm shift in chemical production and it would have a high impact on the competitiveness and sustainability of the European industrial system. The impact on future generations might be huge, "not only in science, industry and economy, but also within society as a whole". However, its development will largely depend on the resources dedicated to research and development.

It is expected that the whitepaper will enable EuCheMS to raise awareness with EU policymakers "which will hopefully result in the allocation of future research funds", according to the organization.

Galería de imágenes

  • Edición 2014

Videos e imágenes

¡Reciba todas las novedades del salón y promociones!

Inscríbase al Newsletter

28 Septiembre

Ya tiene disponible el catálogo on-line