Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Solar energy project to make fuel out of CO2 and capitalise on €1.3bn market




Tyndall National Institute Cork have entered into a collaborative project with US and Northern Irish research partners to turn waste into a renewable, useable energy supply, one that is free from carbon emissions.
Bringing together leading energy scientists from the island of Ireland and the US, the ‘SuSChem’ project will aim to design and develop a new material, powered only by sunlight, to be deployed in power stations to turn the CO2 waste products into liquid fuels.
While SuSChem will aim initially to produce a prototype material, there is significant market potential for a proven material, with the photocatalyst market currently estimated at a value of €1.3bn ($1.7bn).
Tyndall will work in partnership with Ulster University (Derry) and Northwestern University (Illinois), drawing on their expertise in photocatalyst materials, reactor design and synthesis & characterisation respectively.
A global first, SuSChem presents an enormous challenge for the scientists involved as a successful outcome would have transformative effects on society’s energy usage. The project has the dual benefit of reducing our harmful CO2 emissions while also decreasing the global reliance on traditional fossil fuels.
SuSChem capitalises on the US – Ireland R&D Partnership programme, which coordinates the key funding agencies across the three jurisdictions, funding projects under a ‘single proposal, single review mechanism’, exploiting the synergies between the participants. The three-year project will also be leveraged to target EU Horizon 2020 funding in the renewable energies field.
Commenting on the project, Tyndall CEO, Dr Kieran Drain said, ‘SuSChem aptly illustrates the kind of transformative and world-leading research currently underway at Tyndall. The scientific community has a responsibility to help solve the major environmental and economic challenges facing our energy-hungry society. The SuSChem project represents a serious commitment from Ireland and the US to find a solution to our growing energy challenges.’
Tyndall’s lead researcher on the project, Dr Michael Nolan added, ‘My team and I are delighted to work on such an ambitious project, using CO2 as an energy source with other top-class researchers. Our partners are all experts in their scientific fields and we look forward to the collaboration and bringing our expertise in photocatalyst materials to the project’.