Who is the woman leading this innovation?
Anke Krueger is leading this innovation, she is Professor for Organic Chemistry at the University of Wuerzburg
About the innovator
The University of Würzburg has been founded in 1402 and consists of 10 departments among them several departments of natural sciences, including chemistry, materials sciences and physics. Interdisciplinary research projects and specialized research networks are established in all of these departments. Our Institute - which is the institute for Organic Chemistry - focuses on synthetic organic chemistry with a specialty in organic and nanostructured materials for applications such as energy harvesting, solar fuels and biomedical applications.
As a professor at this institute, my research team and I have been involved in several other EU projects on applications of nanodiamond materials in biolabeling, drug delivery and quantum applications of diamond. Additionally, we are part of several national research projects dealing with different applications of nanodiamond in catalysis, biomedicine and for quantum materials. In detail, my team focuses on the development of new diamond nanomaterials - for applications in biomedicine, composites, electronic applications - with covalent and noncovalent surface functionalization, colloid chemistry of diamond nanoparticles, properties of nanocrystalline diamond films and organic synthesis of model compounds for carbon materials.
Prof. Dr. Anke Krueger group website.
What is the innovation
In the EU funded project DIACAT, we are developing a completely new technology for the direct photocatalytic conversion of CO2 into fine chemicals and synthetic fuels using visible light at or near the surface of diamond materials. Our approach uses the unique characteristics of diamond materials, which are widely available at comparably low cost, to generate, after exposure to light, solvated electrons in solution, more particularly in water and ionic liquids.
Within DIACAT, our team is producing functionalized diamond materials from bulk to nano and we are investigating the influence of the surface functionalization on the photo(electro)chemical properties. We are also working on the production of diamond materials with transition metal complexes and other catalytically active moieties such as nanoparticles.
As I am also acting as the coordinator of this project, another major task is to coordinate all contributing teams towards the integration of a first laboratory scale demonstrator of our technology that will be able to convert CO2 at lab scale into carbon-based fine chemicals, CO and hydrocarbons. We were already able to provide the proof of concept in the project of each individual step and are currently finalizing the integration of the laboratory-scale demonstrator.
Out of the lab. Into the market
Within the EU funded project, our aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of the direct reduction of CO2 in a laboratory environment. We have not yet brought our innovation out of the lab, which also could not be the target of our FET Open project aiming at the proof of concept.
To bring the innovation out of the lab, we will need to work on some fundamental aspects of technology maturation, namely how to scale the technology to an industrially relevant size and to do a thorough lifecycle analysis of the technology. We are now at an early stage of the technology development and need to conduct more pre-competitive research to understand all technology gaps and identify solutions to overcome them. This will probably be done in another publicly funded project, involving industry partners who are interested in collaboratively bringing this technology into a market application.
Of course, next to it, it is essential to develop a business plan. In this regard, the idea is to target the chemical / energy sector related markets by proposing them a major new line of technology for the use of CO2 as feedstock for chemical processes, but with building blocks that are already used. Therefore, except for the sourcing from CO2, the chemicals produced in this process can be used in the highly optimized chemical procedures currently established in the chemical industry, and thereby keeping the hurdles of technology acceptance to a minimum. The envisaged technology will not only use emitted CO2 as feedstock but transform it to less oxidized and hence chemically accessible hydrocarbons and their derivatives as marketable and climate friendly products.
Based on the above, we will capitalize on such new technology by proposing it to the industries, which generate most of the CO2 emissions - cement, iron and steel industry - in order to reduce their CO2 gas emissions and be in accordance with the EU policy in terms of climate change. Furthermore, we will propose it as well to the chemical industry, which currently produces hydrocarbons and their derivatives by using fossil resources. In this regard, they could eventually use a more sustainable approach via our CO2 conversion method.
Benefits of participation in Horizon 2020
Our participation to H2020 has greatly helped us in several ways: by finding and being connected with partners that share the same research interests and by funding our four years research project for the development of our innovation. The DIACAT project helped us to demonstrate that the technology works in principle, to deepen our mutual collaborations and to address and solve complex questions in an international team; the participation in the Horizon 2020 programme and especially in the FET Open scheme has helped us a lot to give more visibility to this new idea and the technology behind it.
This innovation is funded via H2020 project DIACAT.