Recycling the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by converting it to the 'solar fuel' carbon monoxide is a compelling future scenario for carbon mitigation.

Putting sunshine in the tank - using nanotechnology to make solar fuel

Louise Pogson, School of Physics and Astronomy, Photon Science Institute, University of Manchester

The largest power generator known to man provides us with non-polluting, free energy everyday and operates efficiently at a safe distance of 93 million miles from our homes! The sun generates more energy in just one hour than the whole of human civilization uses in one year! One of the greatest challenges facing scientists today is how to harvest this energy and convert it into useful fuel that can also be easily stored.

Nature has perfected a chemical reaction in plants, powered by sunlight that does exactly this, a process known as photosynthesis. Chlorophyll, a dye within leaves of plants, helps them absorb energy from sunlight which drives the chemical reaction that produces sugar from carbon dioxide and water. The sugar is then stored within the plant for later use.

Our research brings together the latest advances in solar cell technology with this amazingly efficient, naturally occurring chemical process. We are currently investigating new, inexpensive materials of nano-particle size (1/10, 000th of a human hair in diameter), that can be coated with harmless light harvesting chemical dyes that artificially mimic the role of chlorophyll in plants. These materials will be designed to react with two of the most harmful greenhouse gases: methane and carbon dioxide. The reaction can be driven by solar energy, producing methanol and carbon monoxide; both are useful fuel feed-stocks that can be stored easily and economically. This new technology is an improvement over direct solar power generation, as stored fuel can be used on demand.

Consortium Presentations

Science at Work Event at the Catalyst Museum, Widnes (PDF 50KB) Dr Darren M Graham

Harvesting Sunshine: a solar energy family fun day (PDF 229KB) Prof. Wendy R Flavell

Towards Carbon Dioxide Reduction by Prof. Robin Perutz (PDF 3,436KB)

Harvesting Sunlight by Dr Darren Graham (PDF 4,271KB)

The members of the consortium would be very happy to talk to industry, academia, schools, or other interest groups on 'solar fuels' and our approach to artificial photosynthesis.

Please email Micheline Pickett at m.pickett@uea.ac.uk

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SolarCAP at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, July 5 -10 2011 http://royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011/solar-nanotech/

Read Louise Pogson's award winning article "Putting sunshine in the tank - using nanotechnology to make solar fuel". Louise recently won first prize in the annual Lay Summary Writing Competition at the Manchester Beacon Summit, competing successfully against 95 other postgraduate and postdoctoral students.

New SolarCAP presentations added to the website.

Click the Outreach link to view!

A warm welcome...
We are delighted to welcome Dr Yimin Chao and Dr Joseph Wright to the UEA SolarCAP Nanoscience group. They will be joining us in September 2010, as we sadly say farewell to Professor Thomas Nann, who has moved to the Ian Wark Institute, University of South Australia, and Dr Gaëlle Charron, who is taking up a permanent post in Paris. For more information do see our Research Groups page

Professor Robin Perutz FRS
We are delighted at the election of Professor Robin Perutz as a Fellow of the Royal Society in its 350th anniversary year.

Professor Robin Noel Perutz FRS
In its citation, the Royal Society writes

" Perutz has devised and used new physical techniques to make critical contributions to science that have changed our views about the interactions of metals with small molecules. He has used time-resolved spectroscopy, matrix isolation and product analysis to show that transition metals can complex to weak ligands such as alkanes and noble gases. He has revealed new photochemical pathways for C-H activation and has shown that hydrogen can undergo oxidative addition on every collision. These have led to new understanding of chemical reactivities, and are having major impacts on our understanding of mechanisms, such as occur in catalytic reactions, and that are also relevant to industrial processes. "


Ludwig Mond Award 2009 winner
Christopher Pickett and the 2009 Ludwig Mond Award
The 2009 winner of the Ludwig Mond Award was awarded to Christopher Pickett at a special symposium at the University of Warwick in April 2010.

It was awarded for his electrochemical, synthetic, spectroscopic and mechanistic studies of key metalloenzymes, the nitrogenases and the hydrogenases.

March 2010: Interview with Robin Perutz in Highlights in Chemical Technology at http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/ChemTech/Volume/2010/04/Robin_Perutz_Interview.asp
Robin Perutz

15th May 2009: Science Minister visit

The Science Minister, Lord Drayson of Kensington, visited the ALICE facility at Daresbury Laboratory on 15 May 2009 and heard how ALICE and EMMA will support work on new health treatments and alternative routes to green energy.

Science Minister Visits ALICE

Science Minister Visits ALICE

For more information visit http://www.astec.ac.uk/projects/alice.html and http://www.astec.ac.uk/news.html#drayson

12th March 2009: The SolarCAP website is launched!

Welcome to the SolarCAP website, home of the Solar Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis. Here you will find updates of our research publications, breaking news and vacancies...