Last June, NHyMPha project, Nanostructured Hybrid Materials for Solar Fuels Photoelectrocatalytic Production, coordinated by IMDEA Energía was launched. This project is funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities in the 2019 R&D&I Projects call, for the Research Challenges and Knowledge Generation modalities.
The Artificial Photosynthesis (AP) process is one of the most interesting CO2 valorisation processes from the point of view of energy and environmental which represents not only a direct pathway to reduce and reuse CO2 emissions, but also an attractive method for solar energy storage through the production of both fuels and other added- value products. Due to the high stability of the CO2 molecule and the complexity of the reactions involved, the progress in these technologies is a challenge both in fundamental aspects and from the point of view of engineering process. Although there are advances in this field, there are several challenges associated with them: from the development of multifunctional catalytic systems of high stability, activity and controlled selectivity; the understanding of the processes that occur during these processes as well as the development of more efficient devices and reactors that allow optimal use of sunlight.
The main aim of NHyMPHa project is the photoelectro-reduction of CO2 to produce solar fuels. This project proposes a holistic and innovative strategy based on the development of new multifunctional hybrid materials that improve the current performance of the AP contributing, at the same time, to the understanding of the fundamental aspects of the process. Hybrid materials included either the sum of inorganic semiconductors (mainly metal oxides) and porous polymer networks, including CPPs (Conjugated Porous Polymers) and COFs (Covalent Organic Farameworks), or MOFs (Metal Organic Frameworks) as type hybrids. To carry out this project is mandatory to prepare thin films. To achieve this is imperative the management of these materials in a nanometric scale that allows their process. Therefore, it is vital to develop synthetic strategies on a bottom-up approach. Given the different natures of the materials included in the hybrid catalysts,various nanostructuring strategies are proposed such as: growth of epitaxial films (ALD and PLD, for metal oxides), microfluidization techniques (for CPPs and MOFs), electropolymerization (CPPs) and Interfacial growth (COFs).
All materials will be characterized extensively and specific to their nature, with the necessary techniques. On the other hand, an important aspect of the optimization of these materials as photoelectrocatalysts is the elucidation of the reaction mechanisms, which control the photocatalytic activity and control the selectivity to the products. For this reason, a study will be carried out through theoretical calculations combined with an in situ characterization, which implies, among others, the use of unique facilities such as the ALBA synchrotron so we have a researcher from this ICTS. The generation of solar fuels will be carried out in two-level photoelectrochemical cells:
- a laboratory scale and
- with selected photocatalysts, in a solar reactor based on a compound parabolic collector (CPC).
More information: Marta Liras, Senior Assistant Researcher, Photoactivated Processes Unit, firstname.lastname@example.org