A new device will turn greenhouse gases into green fuel using sunlightLeigh Mc Gowranon January 18, 2022 at 11:43 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic


European scientists are developing a new process to turn greenhouse gases like C02 into clean energy products using sunlight, potentially converting billions of tonnes of C02 into green fuel if successful.

The researchers said its new device called Spotlight can process up to one megaton of carbon dioxide per year, making it complementary to existing large-scale carbon capture and utilization processes.

Photonics is the science and technology of light, and can involve creating, guiding, controlling, amplifying and detecting light.

The Spotlight device concentrates sunlight onto a reactor and uses LED lighting for continuous operation. It uses plasmonic catalysts which can absorb the entire solar spectrum.

Combined with a new chemical process, Spotlight can convert carbon dioxide and green hydrogen into methane and carbon monoxide, as a starting material for creating methanol liquid fuel.

“Climate change, one of the biggest societal challenges of our day, can be tackled with light technologies by taking greenhouse gases that trap heat close to the Earth and turning them into something useful,” project coordinator Nicole Meulendijks said.

The device can be scaled up to offset the CO2 emitted by small to medium ‘point sources’ or places that emit carbon dioxide with emissions lower than one megaton per year. Combined, Meulendijks said these point sources emit 16pc of global C02 a year, or 2.7bn tonnes.

“So, potentially, the process we envision at Spotlight could convert 2.7 Billion tonnes of CO2 per year into useful chemical fuels,” She said.

Meulendijks added that methane and methanol are compatible with our current infrastructure and is suited for applications such as car fuel, energy storage and starting material to produce valuable chemicals.

The Spotlight project has received €5.6m in Horizon 2020 EU funding. It is expected to be finished at the start of 2024 and involves 12 organisations from the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

Last year, PhotonicLeap, a European collaborative project coordinated by the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork, was awarded more than €5m through the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme to develop new photonics technology.

The European Commission also granted a high resolution microscope project, NanoVib, more than €5.6m via the Photonics Public Private Partnership.

Photonics21, the European technology platform for photonics that represents more than 3,000 members, estimates the European photonics industry to be worth €70bn.

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