The process

The project will deliver sustainable processes to produce hydrogen and methanol as energy vectors using only sunlight as an energy source and wastewater and CO2 as feedstocks, making the industries more auto-sufficient. The pathway is based on solar-driven artificial photosynthesis, and aims to use catalytic earth-abundant materials, modifying them to improve catalytic processes.

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Design parameters of the PEC cell will be tuned to maximize solar to fuel (STF) efficiency. Moreover, to improve the conversion for industrial implementation, Photosint will develop a novel way to concentrate and illuminate the semiconductor surface to maximize overall energy efficiency. Perovskite solar PV cells will be integrated to harvest the light to supply the external electrical voltage.

For integrating sunlight energy into the industry, the catalyst will be studied, and then the best one/s will be implemented in prototypes. The obtained results will be used for making scale-up in pilots with tandem PEC cells. These steps are necessary to assess the industrial scale-up feasibility, promoting the increased competitiveness of renewable process energy technologies and energy independence. MeOH and H2 will be tested in engines. Also, an HTPEM fuel cell will be used for electricity generation, and hydrogen will be tested as an alternative fuel for energy generation instead natural gas in melting furnaces avoiding CO2 emissions.

The methodology

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Photosint’s methodology can be segmented in 6 parts that covers the 7 main WP of the project.

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Fine definition of electrodes material and catalyst devices

The main objective is to develop the catalyst to be employed in the demonstration activities, maximising the efficiency and the conversion rate for the target products.

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Design of PV cells

The aim is to develop a basic device design and integrate it into the prototype to check the performance and adjust parameters looking at the maximum absorption capacity. Following the prototype testing, a final detailed design will be implemented based on the behaviour of the prototype. In an industrial environment, this final design will be coupled with the pilots for higher quantities of solar fuel production.

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Modelling activity and process validation

In this phase, it will be developed a mathematical model to reproduce the behaviour of the Photosint processes, giving an important input for the study and assessment for the implementation of the technology in any chemical process industry.

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Fine definition of electrodes material and catalyst devices

The main objective is to develop the catalyst to be employed in the demonstration activities, maximising the efficiency and the conversion rate for the target products.

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Scale up to tandem PEC Cells pilots

Scaling up to tandem PEC Cells pilots will be a crucial step to integrate the technology into industrial processes developed in previous WPs. We will address the pilot activities, increasing the production capacity from prototypes, and making the process more interesting from the industry integration and implementation and substituting fossil process energy.

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Sustainability, impact and exploitation

WP6 aims to successfully carry out the sustainability assessment of the Photosint systems, placing emphasis on the pilots and industrial scale-up. We will also assess by LCA the environmental, health and safety impact of the project technology compared to the current way of energy production.

Key Advances

The project will bring significant advances on:

Catalyst development for PEC systems: the objective is to improve water oxidation and CO2 reduction efficiency to produce liquid fuel. The same action, only in water oxidation, for producing hydrogen. New engineered nanostructured materials will be directly grown by solution combustion to generate catalysts for OER, HER and CO2RR.

Sunlight absorption for solar fuel production: Innovative material will be integrated into efficient PV mini-modules, to increase the performance of the system, requiring less amount of material and number of solar cells in order to get the required current density and voltage. Also, the integration of PV and electrochemical cells will maximize the light collection per material used, while increasing the energy conversion from solar to chemicals per CM2 of PV cell.

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Industrial validation:
The systems developed in PHOTOSINT will be validated on industrial environments, with the support of BNIG, STE, EMU and TOR:

  1. At the BNIG Biogas Plant, the produced methanol will be tested in an HTPEM fuel cell for direct electricity production.
  2. Produced Hydrogen will be used at TOR for frit melting, and at STE’s pilot glass furnace as an alternative fuel for glass melting.
  3. EMU will test the produced methanol and Hydrogen in a dual fuel engine for energy production, for assessing the potential integration on chemical industries.