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Toshiba targeting practical implementation of conversion of solar energy and CO2 to feedstock and fuel in 2020s

Mechanism of the technology. Source: Toshiba. Click to enlarge.

Toshiba Corporation has developed a new technology that uses solar energy directly to generate carbon compounds from carbon dioxide and water, and to deliver a viable chemical feedstock or fuel with potential for use in industry. Toshiba introduced the technology at the 2014 International Conference on Artificial Photosynthesis (ICARP2014) on 26 November.

The long-term goal of the research work is to develop a technology compatible with carbon dioxide capture systems installed at facilities such as thermal power stations and factories, utilizing carbon dioxide to provide stockable and trailerable energy. Towards this, Toshiba said it will further improve the conversion efficiency by increasing catalytic activity, with the aim of securing practical implementation in the 2020s.

Toshiba has developed an artificial photosynthesis technology that converts energy into carbon compounds that are viable as a chemical feedstock or fuel from carbon dioxide at an efficiency of 1.5%, the highest level yet recorded.

Sunlight converts the carbon dioxide and water into carbon monoxide, a source for production of methanol, which can be used as a substitute for gasoline and as a feedstock in the manufacture of diverse products, including adhesives, medicines and PET bottles.

Other artificial photosynthesis technologies use materials that absorb UV light from sunlight to reach the high reaction energy required to convert carbon dioxide into a fuel. However, their low level of light utilization efficiency drags down the energy conversion efficiency, and practical application requires increased efficiency.

Toshiba’s technology uses a gold nanocatalyst via nanoscale structural control technology applied to a multijunction semiconductor that absorbs light in the visible range with high light utilization efficiency.

The company’s research work centered on investigating manufacturing conditions for the nanometer-order gold nanocatalyst, in order to increase the number of active sites that convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, and the development of an efficient electrolyte.



If it beomes a reality, China and INdia could benefit and USA too (if cheap and profitable enough)


>>at an efficiency of 1.5%, the highest level yet recorded.

Sugracane is 8% efficient, Solar Panels are reaching 20%. But keep up the good work, Toshiba.


This process also USES CO2 that exists, so the climate impact could be twice as effective.


I guess that if I fill-up my tank with their fuel, then I will cost me 150$ instead of 40$. Anyway we never know with economy of scale and if petrol is deasapearing than It can power farm machineries and food transportation and I will walk to the grocery store to buy food instead of going in vacation in my car very often and eating in macdonald and sleaping in motels.


I would not be surprised if the major efficiency losses are in the "photo" part.  If a much more efficient variant of this process could be driven by e.g. surplus electricity and it could be made cheap enough, this could be part of an answer to the issue of replacing petroleum.

And speaking of CO2, the previous buckyball-amine article didn't mention if the material was suitable for capture from the atmosphere.

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