Chemical manufacturing is highly energy intensive (in 2020, responsible for 29% of the world energy demand while also accounting for more than 30% of the global greenhouse gas emissions), requiring large amounts of mostly fossil-supplied heat to drive these thermochemical processes. This program focuses on the development of alternative chemical processes using electrical energy or solar energy directly rather than thermal energy:
- One technology envisaged to achieve this is using plasma, created by electrical energy as energy input. This is of particular interest for reactions of very stable molecules, requiring high energy input (e.g. CO2 conversion and N2 fixation), being actively researched within our consortium.
- In this respect, electrochemistry also has emerged as a promising platform for the integration of renewable energy sources in the chemical industry, since it also can directly interconvert (green) electricity into chemical energy or high value chemicals. Together with plasma, electrochemistry will aim to achieve the grand objective of electrifying the chemical industry by producing commodity chemicals from sustainable feedstocks and renewable energy (e.g. CO2 capture and conversion).
- Finally, as the sun provides us with a perpetually unlimited energy supply, a direct use of solar energy for the photo(-electro)catalytic conversion of CO2 to CO, to methanol as well as C2 and C3 chemicals under solar light without resorting to the photovoltaic conversion is also a focal point of the consortium. Integration of catalytic materials (see program 2) in all mentioned processes is vital to improve selectivity towards the desired products and energy efficiency.