Photoelectrocatalytic CO2 reduction to chemicals and fuels

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Natural Sciences & Env Sciences


Over the last 70 years, chemist have been striving to develop Artificial photosynthesis (AP), which mimics nature by using sunlight to generate energy-rich chemicals "solar fuels" and "solar feedstocks" from abundant sources (i.e. H2O, CO2, N2). Although AP could provide the required "rapid and far-reaching" transition required to reach "net zero" CO2 emissions, no efficient, scalable, directly applicable system has been developed so far. Electrochemical reduction of CO2 which utilizes electricity from renewable sources offers a plausible way of using surplus energy from renewable sources and already installed conventional facilities for fuel storage and distribution, is a straight-forward method for large-scale installations. Nonetheless, challenges on low catalyst selectivity, activity and stability, and low overall efficiency hinder further development. A photo-electrochemical system integrated with photo and electrochemical catalysis may provide an answer.
Building on developments by Yu and Gibson on electrochemical and photo catalysis, as well as Beattie's expertise in solar energy (Northumbria University), combining expertise across science and engineering, the aim of the project is to develop a commercially viable "solar fuel" technology with a robust, high efficiency system. Initially, a solar cell will be integrated into an electrochemical reactor which contains an established oxygen evolving catalyst (e.g. CoPi) deposited on the anode and a CO2 reduction catalyst (e.g. cobalt porphyrin, metal oxides) at the cathode. A gas diffusion electrode (GDE) will be assembled as the cathode to minimise CO2 mass transport limitation. Secondly, the interface between the cathode and the electrolyte will be modified, to incorporate pigments to drive photoelectrocatalytic CO2 reduction to C1 product (CO and formate) and, then, to incorporate novel catalysts to produce longer chain products with the synergy from photo and electrochemical activity. Results will be disseminated through presentations at UK and international conferences and publications in leading scientific journals.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023836/1 01/04/2019 30/09/2027
2287278 Studentship EP/S023836/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Ella Fidment