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Solar2fuel Project in Germany Pursuing Photocatalytic Conversion of CO2 to Methanol for Engines or Fuel Cells

Researchers from BASF, Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (EnBW), Heidelberg University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are seeking to develop a process for the photocatalytic conversion of CO2 into methanol for use in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. The Verbund project “Solar2fuel” belongs to the “Forum Organic Electronics” excellence cluster and is being sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with more than €1 million (US$1.3 million) over two years.

In this project, the carbon in carbon dioxide is converted into climate neutral fuels with the aid of sunlight. The project aims to combine approaches based on nanotechnology and material research with catalytic processes.

“A photocatalytic process of this nature could open up new ways of generating easy-to-handle energy sources.”
—Prof. Dr. Michael Grunze,
Heidelberg University

The scientists at Heidelberg University are cooperating with BASF experts headed by Dr. Jan Schoeneboom to develop an air-and light-stable combination of dyes and functionalized nanoscale semiconductor particles.

Under these conditions, sunlight can be absorbed in the optimal range with the aid of organic dyes and supply energy for the conversion of carbon dioxide. Photocatalysis is used to convert the carbon dioxide together with water into methanol.

The experts at EnBW are investigating the energy, emission and cost balances of the overall process—from the power plant waste gas through the actual photocatalysis up to the utilization of the products. The cost of supplying carbon dioxide from power stations is also being analyzed.

The technical engineering aspects of “Solar2fuel” are being implemented by KIT scientists under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Henning Bockhorn. These experts are investigating the physico-chemical and process technology aspects within the overall process. Based on an analysis of the overall system, the design of a photochemical reactor is to be developed and simulated using computer assisted methods.

In the “Forum Organic Electronics” excellence cluster sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, university and non-university research institutes are cooperating with industry in pursuing future-oriented developments in the field of organic electronics. Activities relating to the “Solar2fuel” project commenced in October of last year. BASF serves as coordinator for the consortium.



A very high percentage of the CO2 emited by coal fired power plants could be captured, stored and then converted to useful fuel by sun energy using this method.

It could be a win win solution for USA, China, India and many other nations with large coal fired polluting power plants and a shortage of liquid fuel.

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