Solar-driven Synthesis of Fuels and Chemicals from Biomass and Plastic Waste
Department of Chemistry
University of Cambridge, UK
Thursday, 26th November, 2020, 10.00, via ZOOM
Meeting ID: 945 1704 5257
Artificial photosynthesis is a sustainable process that utilises solar energy to drive endothermic multi-electron chemical reactions for the production of fuels. A common drawback in photoelectrochemical systems is their reliance on expensive materials and device architectures, which challenges the development of ultimately scalable devices. Particulate photocatalysts provide a potentially lower-cost alternative, but their low efficiencies and common reliance on costly sacrificial redox reagents limit their commercial prospects.
This presentation will give an overview about our recent progress in developing semiconductor suspension systems to perform efficient full redox cycle solar catalysis using inexpensive components, and our approach for sustainable photo-reforming of waste biomass and plastics (Figure 1). The principles and design considerations for the solar-driven photo-reforming process will be compared to traditional artificial photosynthetic systems and benefits and disadvantages discussed.
Specifically, CdS/CdOx quantum dots and carbon-based materials such as carbon nitride have been recently established as suitable photocatalysts for the photo-conversion of lignocellulosic biomass and synthetic polymers such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polylactic acid (PLA) in aqueous medium into H2 fuel and organic chemicals (in particular organic acids and monomeric building blocks of the polymer substrate). Thus, this ambient-temperature photo-reforming process offers a simple and low-energy means for transforming polymeric waste into fuel and bulk chemicals.