Large-scale conversion of CO2 into fuels hold the promise of solving two increasingly pressing problems: the massive and increasing levels of CO2 emissions associated with current power generation methods and the need to match the production cycles of the expanding renewable energy network with the usage pattern of society. Maximizing the overall energy efficiency of the process is crucial to the realization of this approach. CO2 capture cycles in general, and the release phase in particular, represent a substantial faction of the cumulative process and energy penalty associated with CO2 conversion. This project takes as its starting point that the application of plasma (the fourth state of matter) during the CO2 release phase of a “carbon capture cycle” can contribute to substantial gains in process efficiency. These gains are realizable at both the macroscopic (process-integration) and the microscopic (enhanced chemistry; material processing) levels.
Plasma can be used to efficiently convert electrical energy into chemical energy. It allows for more targeted application on the input energy, in contrast to traditional high-temperature chemical processing. In addition, the material processing aspects of plasma can be used to maintain, and even enhance, the properties of the capturing material during regeneration. An independent international review panel concluded that the approach being adopted “could produce a step change in CO2 utilization”.
This project is a joint collaboration between the Solar Fuels division of the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) and the Catalytic Processes and Materials group of the Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Twente, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Gleeson and Prof. Dr. Ir. Leon Lefferts, respectively. Parallel research lines aim at developing a detailed picture of the reaction processes, with a focus on quantifying the reaction efficiencies and the scope for controlling the product selectivity and composition. This project is supported by the Solar Fuel Program (FOM-NWO-Shell).