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Slide FlowPhotoChem Sustainable Chemicals with Sunlight and CO2 Using sunlight to turn CO2 into fuels and useful chemicals FlowPhotoChem is developing novel technologies that use concentrated solar energy and advanced catalysts to convert CO2 into ethylene. Helping to meet Europe’s Climate Objectives By harvesting CO2 and creating chemicals without the use of fossil fuels, FlowPhotoChem is reducing Europe’s greenhouse-gas emissions and contributing to a cleaner planet. Efficient, durable and cost effective FlowPhotoChem goes beyond the state-of-the-art in the conversion of sunlight to chemicals, using low-maintenance, high-durability components and technologies. Aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals FlowPhotoChem contributes to SDG 7 (sustainable energy), to SDG 12 (sustainable consumption) and SDG 13 (combatting climate change).
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Sustainable Chemicals with Sunlight and CO2

WHAT IS FlowPhotoChem?

FlowPhotoChem is a multi-national, EU-funded research project that is developing new and better ways to manufacture chemicals using carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight. There is great potential to replace much of the fossil fuels used today to make fuels and useful chemicals, by using solar energy and advanced catalysts to convert CO2 into, for example, ethylene, as a precursor for plastics. FlowPhotoChem addresses the key challenges to achieving this – more effective solar light management, more efficient reactors, and more durable catalysts.

The project brings together many of Europe’s leading R&D teams in this and related fields, from computer scientists and modellers to chemists, reactor designers and catalyst companies.

Project in a Nutshell

FlowPhotoChem is building and demonstrating new technology to convert CO2 into ethylene using concentrated sunlight. We achieve this by combining the following innovations:

  • Intensely concentrated sunlight

  • A modular assembly of different types of flow chemical reactors

  • New catalysts, that are cheaper and more durable than today’s best catalysts

  • Extensive use of computer modelling to configure, optimise and manage the reactors

Three types of reactor

Flow reactors are chemical reactors where the reaction continues on an ongoing basis, as raw materials and products flow into and out of the reaction chamber. This flow differentiates them from batch reactors.

This reactor uses concentrated light energy to drive a chemical reaction. We use a PEC to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The excess heat from this reaction feeds the PC reactor. We also use it to convert water and CO2 to solar syngas.

This reactor uses light energy and the presence of a catalyst to trigger and drive a chemical reaction. We use a PC reactor to combine CO2 with the hydrogen from the PEC reactor, to produce CO, and the base material for plastics.

This reactor uses renewable energy and catalysts to stimulate the conversion of CO into value-added products such as ethylene, ethanol, acetate and n-propanol.

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