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Photonic Technology Converts Greenhouse Gases into Clean Energy

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jan. 25, 2022 — The European consortium SPOTLIGHT is developing a process that uses sunlight and LEDs to turn carbon dioxide and green hydrogen into clean energy products such as methane gas and methanol liquid fuel. Using a photonic device, the SPOTLIGHT consortium is looking to process up to one megaton of carbon dioxide per year, with the technology complementary to existing large-scale carbon capture and utilization processes.

“Our goal is to develop and validate a photonic device and chemical process concept for the sunlight-powered conversion of CO2 and green H2 to the chemical fuel methane (CH4, Sabatier process) and to carbon monoxide (CO, reverse water gas shift process) as starting material for the production of the chemical fuel methanol (CH3OH),” said Nicole Meulendijks, project coordinator at SPOTLIGHT. “Both CH4 and CH3OH are compatible with our current infrastructure and suited for multiple applications such as car fuel, energy storage, and starting material to produce valuable chemicals.”

The photonic device will consist of a transparent flow reactor optimized for light incoupling in the catalyst bed, Meulendijks said. It will include secondary solar optics to concentrate natural sunlight and project it onto the reactor. Finally, it will feature an energy-efficient LED light source to ensure continuous 24/7 operation.

The device will use plasmonic catalysts that are capable of absorbing the full solar spectrum.

The chemical processes proposed by SPOTLIGHT can be upscaled to offset the CO2 emitted by small to medium “point sources,” or places that emit carbon dioxide at rates lower than one megaton per year.


A photonic devices consisting of a transparent flow reactor, solar optics, and an LED light source, and that uses plasmonic catalysts, capable of absorbing the entire solar spectrum, is the central component of a process that uses sunlight and LEDs to turn carbon dioxide and green hydrogen into clean energy products. Courtesy of Photonics 21.
A photonic device consisting of a transparent flow reactor, solar optics, and an LED light source. It uses plasmonic catalysts capable of absorbing the entire solar spectrum and is the central component of a process that uses sunlight and LEDs to turn carbon dioxide and green hydrogen into clean energy products. Courtesy of Photonics 21.
Worldwide there are approximately 11,000 CO2 point sources. Combined, they emit a cumulative total of about 2.7 billion tons of CO2, which is approximately 16% of all CO2 point sources globally.

“Potentially, the process we envision at SPOTLIGHT could convert 2.7 billion tons of CO2 per year into useful chemical fuels,” Meulendijks said.

The consortium is coordinated in the Netherlands by Nederlandse Organisatie Voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek TNO. It consists of partners from the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Published: January 2022
Glossary
photovoltaic
Photovoltaic (PV) refers to a technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity using semiconductors. The term "photovoltaic" is derived from the words "photo," meaning light, and "voltaic," referring to electricity, named after Alessandro Volta, a pioneer in the field of electricity. Key points about photovoltaic technology: Photovoltaic cells: The basic building block of photovoltaic technology is the photovoltaic cell, also known as a solar cell. These cells are made of...
plasmonics
Plasmonics is a field of science and technology that focuses on the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and free electrons in a metal or semiconductor at the nanoscale. Specifically, plasmonics deals with the collective oscillations of these free electrons, known as surface plasmons, which can confine and manipulate light on the nanometer scale. Surface plasmons are formed when incident photons couple with the conduction electrons at the interface between a metal or semiconductor...
photochemical
The term photochemical pertains to chemical processes or reactions that are initiated or influenced by the absorption of light. Photochemical reactions involve the interaction of light, often in the form of ultraviolet or visible radiation, with molecules, leading to changes in their chemical structure or properties. These reactions are distinct from thermal or non-light-induced chemical reactions. Key characteristics of photochemical reactions include: Light absorption: Photochemical...
BusinesscollaborationconsortiumspotlightEuropesolarphotovoltaicconversionfuelhydrogencarbon dioxideCO2methaneclean energygreenhouse gasgreen energyplasmonicschemistryLEDPhotonics 21chemicalsphotochemical

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