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Sunlight
fueled
chemistry

As a society, we currently face two major challenges: securing our future energy supply by transferring fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas CO2 emissions. Only then can we achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement; limiting global warming to no more than 1.5°C in the 21st century and net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The FOTON project addresses both challenges.

In the INTERREG project FOTON, 9 project partners have the ambition to develop high-tech systems and materials for sunlight driven sustainable processes that contribute to a climate neutral industry. The direct use of sunlight as an energy source for chemical processes has a number of advantages over the conventional use of sustainably generated electricity. First, there is the high energy efficiency in the direct use of sunlight: there is no energy loss in converting sunlight to electricity, or less energy loss if the electricity is generated in the chemical reactor itself. Transportation of electricity is not necessary and direct use of sunlight is used for local production of green hydrogen and methanol. This decentralized production avoids high costs associated with infrastructure.

Three pilots will demonstrate that sunlight can be used as a renewable energy source for the production of green methanol and green hydrogen in a technologically efficient, energy-efficient and financially viable manner.

The research within FOTON provides the basis for future translation into an industrial process and offers commercial opportunities for materials and equipment manufacturers and chemical companies in the region.

Read more about Project FOTON

The technique behind the chemistry

We aim to create an integrated, laboratory-scale demonstrator (‘laboratory-scale mini-plant’) that can demonstrate that sunlight-driven conversion of CO2 towards hydrogen and methanol is feasible from both a technical and economic perspective.

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The power of the sun

This development will contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. Using the developed “mini-factory” we aim at demonstrating the technical and commercial feasibility of the process, which is essential for further upscaling and future commercialization.

Furthermore, we aim to demonstrate that the developed concept can also be used to produce fine chemicals, such as intermediates for medicines, in a safe and straightforward way. The research within FOTON provides the basis for the future translation into an industrial process and offers commercial opportunities for material and equipment producers and chemical companies in the region.

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FAQ

Learn more about Project FOTON. Here you can find the frequently asked questions combined with the answers.

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Q1: Converting CO2 into a fuel: a utopian situation?

In previous work, TNO and UHasselt have proven that it is technically feasible to convert CO2 into hydrogen and methanol on a laboratory scale. Within the framework of the LUMEN project, we aim at establishing a labscale mini factory of this process and demonstrate that the process is also economically feasible

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Q2: What are the key challenges in the development of this technology?

Key challenges in the development of this technology are the design of a suited reactor and process for sunlight fueled conversion of CO2 into hydrogen and methanol. Furthermore the established catalysts need to be further improved to optimize their product selectivity and activity.

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Q3: Who would be interested in this concept?

Primarily companies who have to aim to reduce their CO2 emission, e.g. chemical industry or steel manufacturers. Furthermore companies that produce catalysts for chemical processes and manufacturers of reactors will have an interest in this technology.

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Q4: Where could the CO2 that would be used as raw material come from?

From industrial point sources or from direct air capture

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