Solar Fuels

The dream of chemists is to make liquid fuels from only sunlight, water, and CO2. Such a reaction could solve a big share of the energy problems mankind has at the moment. The final goal is to store solar energy in chemical bonds and make it available on demand. Liquid fuels can be handled easily and one can make use of the existing, highly developed liquid fuel infrastructure. Both direct photoelectrochemical conversion of CO2 and conventional conversion of CO2 with solar H2 can be in principle ways to liquid Solar Fuels. However, direct solar conversion of CO2 is challenging since up to 8 electrons need to be transferred simultaneously to arrive at CH4. A first step in that direction is water splitting by photoelectrocatalysis to produce solar H2.

Photoelectrocatalytic reactions are inherently many-step processes including light harvesting, charge carrier production and separation, as well as reaction at a catalyst surface. Heterogeneous catalysis plays a pivotal role in these processes.

Within the rapidly growing field of Solar Fuels Catalysis research, the IMC group puts focus on the physicochemical basics and mechanistic details of photo(electro)catalytic systems and reactions. 

Research topics include:

  • mechanistic studies into reaction intermediates, kinetic modeling, catalytic cycles, catalyst-support interactions
  • the role interfaces between light harvester, cocatalysts, and electrolyte
  • model catalysis in a close interplay between theoretical modeling and experimentation
  • analytical method development for photoelectrocatalytic systems
  • preparation and testing of novel photocatalytic materials

We make use of different preparation methods such as chemical bath deposition, sol-gel methods, and in cooperation chemical vapour and atomic layer deposition. Analytical techniques routinely applied are photochemical reactor setups, photocurrent spectroscopy, on-line electrochemical mass spectrometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopies, as well as synchrotron based spectroscopy and diffraction techniques.

The group is in close collaboration with the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science at Utrecht University within the Utrecht - Eindhoven Solar Fuels Catalysis Strategic Alliance.

Interested undergraduate and graduate students can visit the homepage of the NIOK Solar Fuels Catalysis Graduate Program, where students can follow MSc and PhD (starting 2015) education programs with focus on Solar Fuels Catalysis. The graduate program is provided by a consortium of four highly renowned institutions including Twente University, Leiden University, Utrecht University, and Eindhoven University of Technology.

IMC contact:

Prof. dr. ir. E.J.M Hensen

Dr. Jan Philipp Hofmann