One of the most important scientific challenges nowadays is to secure the future energy supply and develop chemical processes which efficiently use natural resources. The need for new energy sources can be rationalized considering that today’s energy consumption is mainly covered by fossil fuels (~87 %),3 which, at reasonable cost, will supply the world’s energy demand for several years. However, meeting global energy consumption in a sustainable, carbon-neutral manner is desirable and different alternatives are currently discussed, e.g. biomass conversion, wind or solar energy. Simultaneously, alternative green routes have to be developed to replace processes using drastic or environmentally harmful conditions.
The earth receives 5.000 times more energy from the sun than mankind uses over a year, and thus utilizing sunlight is a promising way to achieve these goals. Nevertheless, it is still an intriguing scientific challenge to convert energy-poor, abundant molecules into energy-rich, storable compounds (fuels) or stimulate catalytic processes using sunlight as source of energy (Figure 1). In this regard one of the likely (photosynthetic) fuels would be hydrogen produced from water (WS) and an example for an interesting selective oxidation (SO) reaction is the conversion of glycerol, a low cost substance, to valuable chemical. Particularly, this project will develop innovative (co-)catalysts and contribute to the fundamental understanding of the highly complex interaction of a photon absorber and applied co-catalysts generating functioning composite materials.
Figure 1. Applications of photocatalysis.