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Chinese Academy of Sciences Showcase Thousand-ton Scale Solar Fuel Synthesis

Advanced Technologies from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences used for demonstration project for direct solar fuel synthesis in Lanzhou, China on 17th January 2020.

This project represents China’s first step towards industrial production of liquid fuels from solar energy. The process involves conversion of carbon dioxide, water and solar energy into transportable liquid fuels such as methanol. Making use of three technological units: solar photovoltaics to generate electricity; electrolyser to split water for producing hydrogen; and carbon dioxide hydrogenation to produce methanol as a result.

The technologies of electrocatalytic water splitting and carbon dioxide hydrogenation was developed by Professor Li Can and team in the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Professor Li’s team devised a new type of electrocatalyst for electrocatalytic water splitting. Through this method energy consumption is reduced to 4.0 – 4.2 Kilowatt-hour per Normal cubic meter of hydrogen for large scale hydrogen production at a rate of 1000 Normal cubic meter of hydrogen per hour.

The team also developed an efficient Zinc Oxide-Zirconium dioxide solid solution bimetallic oxide catalyst for carbon dioxide hydrogenation to methanol, achieving excellent performance. Methanol selectivity is over 90 percent for a single pass in the fixed-bed reaction process, and the performance loss was less than three percent after 3,000 hours of operation under industrial conditions.

This method using Photovoltaic-Electrolyser-Catalysis (PV-E-C) process is environmentally-friendly unlike conventional practices of methanol production from coal or natural gas which emit carbon dioxide. It is referred to as “green methanol” as a result of zero carbon emissions.

Producing methanol with the PV-E-C process has shown to be 10 percent more efficient at solar energy conversion.

This method of methanol production demonstrated in Lanzhou proves to be a revolutionary step towards transitioning the use of fossil fuels for energy to renewable energy. [APBN]