LICROX: €3 million and 3 years to convert CO2 and sunlight into solar fuels

By November 12, 2020ICIQ

As 2020 comes – slowly – to an end, it is clear humanity needs to work together to overcome global challenges. Aside from the pandemic, 2020 will be remembered as one of the warmest years on the books. The recently approved European Green Deal aims to build a sustainable growth strategy to reach climate neutrality in the continent by 2050. Radically new technologies based on renewable energies will need to be developed in the coming years to reach such an ambitious target. The LICROX project, coordinated by Prof. Antoni Llobet, Group Leader at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), a BIST centre, will play a key role in fighting climate change with their research on artificial photosynthesis.

The natural process of photosynthesis allows plants and other photosynthetic organisms (algae and some bacteria) to convert solar energy, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbohydrates (their fuel). Artificial photosynthetic systems mimic this natural process and even aim to outperform it by developing more efficient and simpler procedures. Among these, photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) have the potential to become an efficient and cost-effective technology for the direct conversion of solar energy. Current drawbacks in their development include poor PEC efficiency in absorbing sunlight, poor selectivity in the reduction of CO2 to carbon-based compounds, and utilisation of non-abundant or toxic elements in the catalytic materials.

LICROX is a highly multidisciplinary effort where chemistry, physics, engineering, optics, and social involvement specialists join together with the final aim to contribute to the global transition from fossil fuels to solar fuels. The best photoanode and photocathode produced through the project will be implemented and validated in a final PEC prototype,” explains Prof. Antoni Llobet.

LICROX aims to implement a new type of PEC which would incorporate light trapping mechanisms to boost the light harvesting efficiency. This new PEC would also include catalysts made of abundant elements in order to selectively drive water oxidation and carbon dioxide reduction reactions. These would allow researchers to obtain carbon-based products like ethylene, one of the most important products currently used by the chemical industry, in high efficiencies.

More about LICROX

The project has a total budget of € 3,199,602.50 and will be completed over the course of three years (beginning from September 2020). It was awarded through the European FET Proactive call (FETPROACT-EIC-05-2019).

LICROX brings together a consortium of seven European partners, including two technical universities: Technical University of Munich (TUM, Germany) and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland), two research institutes: Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO, Spain) and Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ, Spain), two companies: Avantama (Switzerland) and Hysytech (Italy), and a foundation working in technology assessment and public engagement: the Danish Board of Technology Foundation (DBT, Denmark).

This October 8th marked the project’s kick-off, where members were able to virtually meet one another, share the overview of the project structure and organisation, plan the main actions for the first months, and introduce the current members of the project’s External Advisory Board, Prof. Michael Grätzel (Professor of Physical Chemistry at EPFL) and Prof. Maximilian Fleischer (Chief Expert Energy, Siemens Energy), who also participated in the meeting.

More information can be found on the ICIQ website.