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Industrialization of Liquid Solar Fuel for Sustainable Energy Source

Research team from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences together with other collaborators worked together to bring the use of liquid solar fuel at the industry level.

Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and lowering carbon emissions have become important issues for sustainable development. Alternatives to fossil fuels have also been developed to reduce the carbon footprint of fuel generation, allowing for new and greener energy sources.

A research team led by Professor Li Can from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators industrialized the liquid solar fuel production through the “Liquid Solar Fuel Production demonstration Project”. The project passed the scientific and technological achievement evaluation certified by China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CPCIF) on 15 October 2020.

The team used commercial photovoltaic technology to generate electric power, the independently developed alkaline water electrolysis catalysts to produce renewable hydrogen, and carbon dioxide hydrogenation catalyst to produce methanol in the end. Therefore, the liquid solar fuel production was called “liquid sunshine”.

“It is a new way for the large-scale production of green liquid fuels with renewable energy,” said Professor Li.

One of the key innovative technologies of the project is the efficient, low-cost and long-lifetime electrocatalyst for alkaline water electrolysis in hydrogen production, which had been approved to be one of the best electrocatalyst reported so far for large-scale alkaline water. The facility had a capacity for production of more than one thousand standard cubic meters of hydrogen per hour on a single set of industrial electrolytic cells, and the unit hydrogen energy consumption was reduced to less than 4.3 kilowatt hours per cubic meter.

Besides this, the electrocatalyst demonstrated low-cost, high-selectivity and high-stability as a carbon dioxide hydrogenation catalyst for methanol production. The zinc oxide/zirconium oxide bimetallic oxide solid solution catalyst had achieved 1,000 tons per year green methanol synthesis. The selectivity of methanol reached 98 percent, and the content of methanol in reached 99.5 percent. In addition, the catalyst was resistant to poisoning and sintering.

The plant of the “Liquid Solar Fuel Production demonstration Project” consisted of three basic units: solar photovoltaic for renewable electricity generation, alkaline water electrolyser for green hydrogen production, and methanol synthesis by carbon dioxide hydrogenation.

The photovoltaic power station with a total power of ten megawatts provided electricity for alkaline water electrolyser to hydrogen production, which was used in the end station for carbon dioxide hydrogenation to produce methanol. [APBN]