The main problem, challenge addressed by the research project

The objective of SOLAR2CHEM is to provide high-level training in solar-driven chemistry to early stage researchers and provide them with the transferable skills necessary for thriving careers. SOLAR2CHEM proposes to study new hybrid materials composed by easy to fabricate and affordable carbon-based semiconductors with molecular catalysts to achieve the efficiency and selectivity required for the targeted chemicals, as well as their incorporation in functional photoelectrochemical and photocatalytic reactors.

Objectives of the research project

  • to train 15 early stage researchers in state-of-the-art concepts and techniques, with a strong focus on interdisciplinary knowledge on physical sciences (chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering), providing communication, leadership, management skills and solid professional connections;
  • to advance knowledge on hybrid devices for solar chemicals production focusing on novel molecules and materials exceeding current efficiencies and selectivity, while considering the environmental footprint based on materials availability and manufacturing process. Special attention will be given to state-of-the-art characterization techniques and modelling;
  • to cover the promotion of solar chemicals within policy-makers and stakeholders, and the development of the private sector through communication to the general public.

The most important activities of the research project

SOLAR2CHEM research objectives are:

  • To prepare hybrid (hy-)photoanodes for selective oxidation of substrates (water, alcohols and alkenes);
  • To synthesise hy-photocathodes for H2, CH3OH and NH3 production;
  • To design hy-photocatalysts for simultaneous oxidation and reduction reactions of the targeted compounds;
  • To study the photoelectrodes using advanced spectroscopic techniques and quantum chemical computations, such as ultrafast spectroscopy, 2D electron microscopy and x-ray synchrotron measurements;
  • Design photoelectrochemical (PEC) and photocatalytic reactors combining the targeted photoelectrodes and photocatalysts, and optimise their performance for each chemical output; and
  • Undertake a sustainability analysis to promote the technology at the European level and ensure an appropriate legal framework for its adaptation.

Expected results, TRL

SOLAR2CHEM’s research novelty will tackle the aforementioned challenges by the design of PEC reactors. The partnership will seek to fulfil the challenge set in the H2020 Prize “Sunfuel-EICPrize-2021” to develop a bench-scale prototype on an artificial photosynthesis system to produce a usable synthetic fuel. Close collaboration with the EU Graphene flagship and the proposed FET Sunrise flagship will be established to transfer knowledge, provide complementary expertise and expose the ESRs to a wider network of academic and non-academic organisations.

Project partners – academic and industrial

Beneficiaries – host institutes

  • National University of Ireland Galway
  • University of Cambridge
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Technical University of Valencia
  • Max Plank Institute for Colloids and Interfaces
  • Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia
  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Tampere University
  • University of Szeged
  • Johnson Matthey

Partner Organizations – secondment/training

  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Tokyo
  • Alba Cell Synchrotron
  • HyEnergy
  • CleverMakeFunny – Steve Cross
  • Action Renewables
  • Rovira i Virgili University

A possible future research avenue, new projects and cooperation possibilities

A close collaboration will be set with the EU Graphene Flagship given that carbon-based semiconductors and graphene and doped-graphene will be used in the construction of photoelectrodes, as well as with the Sunrise flagship proposal which. The consortium will be the base of a new COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) action designed around the research outputs of the project. Most important for the ESRs, a SOLAR2CHEM Alumni Network will be created as part of the final conference to discuss the next steps for them, including a report on the outcomes of the discussion.