The specific target of CATCO2RE is to investigate the conversion of CO2 to solar fuels (methane and methanol) integrating new developments in the production of solar hydrogen, with the design and synthesis of selective catalysts active at milder reaction conditions, and effective CO2 capture and purification technologies. We divide our research goals into two categories:
Design and build a functional lab scale prototype for the conversion of sunlight and CO2 to methane. The prototype reactor will combine solar hydrogen generation (WP1, KU Leuven), use the produced H2 to hydrogenate CO2 to methane (WP3, UGent and VITO), and capture/separate the CO2 (WP2, VUB and VITO). The construction of an integrated prototype will allow to study the effect of integration on the performance, the effect of impurities in the produced H2, the effect of intermittent operation, the heat integration between CO2 capture/separation and exothermic methanation. The construction of a prototype will be supported by a techno-economic evaluation (WP4 VITO). The goal is to achieve a functional prototype within 3 years.
Key research challenges and scientific breakthroughs for every work package:
WP1: H2 production from solar energy: Design and construct a solar hydrogen panel that produces hydrogen from sunlight and air-borne water vapor. Integrate this panel with a CO2 reduction unit to produce solar fuels. Direct electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 to methane of methanol in solar fuels panel
WP2: CO2 Capture and Separation: Design of structured sorbents to selectively adsorb CO2. Different systems for advanced desorption of CO2 (including Electrical Swing Adsorption) will be developed to obtain high global efficiency. Vito: shaping of catalyst and sorbent materials into periodic porous structures by 3D printing and coating.
WP3 Catalytic CO2 hydrogenation: Design a catalyst to selectively hydrogenate CO2 to methanol which is active at lower temperatures than the state-of-the-art CuZnO, approaching the activity of homogeneous Ru complexes. We will combine first principles modeling with experimental validation.