Dr. Svent Albrecht, TANiOBIS GmbH , about CO2SiMo
Photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction with simultaneous oxidative raw material production
CO2-WIN Connect: Your goal is to use carbon dioxide to create a chemical energy store for solar energy. How did the idea for this come about and what role does CO2 play in this?
Dr. Albrecht: There are already laboratory studies on catalysts that can be used to convert carbon dioxide into usable gases using solar energy. However, these catalysts currently still show low efficiency. In order to increase the cost/benefit ratio for this reaction, experience from fuel cell technology and material developments for new catalysts and electrodes will be applied to this photocatalytic CO2 conversion.
CO2-WIN Connect: How does a photoelectrochemical cell work and what exactly is the innovation?
Dr. Albrecht: Like an electrolytic cell or a fuel cell, a photoelectrochemical cell (PEZ) consists of a cathode and an anode side. The basic difference to an electrolytic cell is that the energy in the photoelectrochemical cell is supplied by solar energy and not by an external power supply. Thus, by irradiating light onto so-called photocathodes, an internal current can be generated that is used directly for the desired CO2 conversion. On the other side of the PEZ, the anode side, a positive electrical charge is inevitably generated, which is to be used for conversions of water into usable hydrogen peroxide
CO2-WIN Connect: How can the products of the process be used?
Dr. Albrecht: CO2 conversion produces gas mixtures as possible starting materials for numerous chemical syntheses that currently require fossil raw materials such as crude oil. Conversion to methane gas, which can serve as a substitute for natural gas for heating purposes, for example, is also possible. The peroxides formed on the anode side, such as hydrogen, are important as bleaching agents in detergents or also as disinfectants. At the same time, hydrogen peroxide can be tested as an energy carrier, e.g. for fuel cells.
CO2-WIN Connect: What expertise is needed to achieve the goals of the project?
Dr. Albrecht: In the Cosimo project, partners from basic research, applied research and industry are working together. For the material development of the catalysts, various synthesis methods such as sol-gel processes are used in the laboratory. Analytical methods, crystal structure chemistry and photoelectrochemistry are crucial for the characterization of the substances. For the development of the electrodes and the photoelectrochemical cell, materials science and knowledge of process engineering, sensor technology and metrology are required.
CO2-WIN Connect: What role can the process play in the future in terms of the energy transition? What visions do you have?
Dr. Albrecht: The use of "freely" available CO2 can reduce dependence on fossil raw materials such as crude oil and natural gas. The Cosimo process can also be used to convert solar energy into the storable gas methane, thus contributing to a continuous energy supply from renewable sources. The Cosimo process couples CO2 utilization with the production of peroxides that are already traded, so acceptance is expected to be high. Due to the high market attractiveness, a contribution is thus made to the timely achievement of climate targets.
CO2-WIN Connect: Do you foresee any external influences that could hinder or promote successful market penetration?
Dr. Albrecht: In general, processes that use CO2 from the atmosphere may become increasingly important for achieving climate targets.
FIt would also be beneficial for market penetration if the increase in demand for peroxides were to continue. Here, Cosimo technology can be a CO2-free alternative to the anthraquinone process currently in use. A future use of hydrogen peroxide as an energy carrier could also further increase the attractiveness of the Cosimo process.
CO2-WIN Connect: Herr Dr. Albrecht, thank you very much for your time.
You would like to learn more about the BMBF-funded project CO2SiMo?