The biosphere converts sunlight to chemical energy by photosynthesis in plants, and mankind has learned to convert sunlight directly to electricity and electricity to light. Current nanoscience strives to convert sunlight and water/CO2 directly to fuels and in Graetzel cells to electricity via chemical redox cycles. In the future we need to make fuels and chemicals from CO2 and renewable energy and eventually to bind nitrogen and make fertilizers without natural gas and CO2 emissions. In PlusUltra we explore a number of novel concepts that address these challenges. We introduce the use of renewable and peak electricity in various forms, instead of or in addition to regular concentrated sunlight. We investigate novel photocatalysts based on recent advances in understanding defect chemistry, co-doping, nano- and heterostructures. For CO2 conversion we use parallel and sequential use of dual hotocatalysts for UV and visual solar light in the form of composites and nanoarrays. We introduce solid electrolytes and mixed ion-electron conducting membranes as photoelectrode substrates for direct separation of products, furthermore allowing elevated temperatures that promote kinetics and increase resistance towards photo-corrosion. Finally, the above allow us to introduce photolytic activation of nitrogen, driven by light and electricity and aided by novel photocatalysts. This subsequently reacts with supplied H2, O2, or C-containing molecules or their activated species. We hereby build a novel basis for using renewable energy to make fuels, carbon-containing chemicals, and fertilizers.
The project is funded by Research Council of Norway, under the ENERGIX New Concenpts program, project number 229705