29 November 2023

A circular solar fuel for sustainable energy storage

on UvA website: hims.uva.nl

Dr Sonja Pullen of the research group for Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-Inspired Catalysis at the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences was awarded € 105.000,- as a ‘PPS-allowance’ from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The funding supports research into photochemical recycling of CO2 to formic acid as a liquid hydrogen carrier, which will be carried out in cooperation with the company DENS (Helmond, the Netherlands). The grant will allow the appointment of a postdoctoral researcher for one year.

The Pullen lab is currently developing homogeneous photocatalysts that selectively produce formic acid directly from water, carbon dioxide and light. This aligns nicely with the development at DENS, that is working towards a new, sustainable fuel called Hydrozine, which is essentially formic acid. It is created from water and CO2 in a light-powered  process that resembles the way plants produce sugar.

Formic acid thus offers an opportunity to store solar energy in the form of a liquid fuel without the need for actual plants. Using a Hydrozine power generator developed by DENS, this ‘solar fuel’ can be used on-demand to generate electricity or clean hydrogen gas, while the waste product COis captured and reused for the production of new formic acid. The joint project between Pullen and DENS will focus on optimizing the Amsterdam photocatalysts for formic acid production, such that these becomes compatible with the DENS technology.

Dr. Sonja Pullen. Photo: HIMS.