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Recent trends in renewable energy driven chemistry for energy conversion and storage
November 6, 2020 from 9:00 am — 10:00 am
Zoom Webinar with Richard van de Sanden
Department of Applied Physics
Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, Netherlands
The worldwide energy crisis and environmental issues have greatly driven the current research on exploring and efficiently utilizing the environmentally-friendly and sustainable energy sources. Most sustainable sources such as solar and wind energy are in principle able to meet the global energy demand. Nevertheless, they are intermittent and require new concepts of conversion and storage of electricity. Chemical feedstock, i.e. storing energy in form of the binding energy of molecules, is an economically feasible option for long term (seasonal) storage. However, the main challenge is how to address the problem of developing an effective and economical process for converting electrical energy into molecules of high energy for chemical feedstock.
In a circular CO2 neutral society, where the use of dense energy carriers based on carbon will still be needed, the re-use of (air captured) carbon dioxide is required. These dense energy carriers can be utilized to mitigate intermittency of renewable energy sources by providing seasonal storage, as feedstock for the chemical industry to replace fossil based feedstock and as green fuels for long haul and air transport. Also in this context, nitrogen ﬁxation is unquestionably one of the most important chemical conversion process since it converts atmospheric nitrogen (low energy molecule) into molecules of high energy (e.g. NH3, NO). The use of electrons, from renewable electricity, or photons, directly from the sun, provide scientific and technological opportunities to develop novel pathways for chemical conversion.
In this talk, after an introduction to the challenges facing the world in the next decades, I will discuss the opportunities of using plasmas, powered by renewable electricity, for scalable gas conversion of key molecules such as CO2 and N2. In particular I will address the use of microwave plasma to dissociate CO2 into CO and O2, and the possible, often claimed, role of nonequilibrium vibrational kinetics. The separation of the products CO2/O2/CO will discussed briefly. Inspired by this approach, I will present a unique hybrid type reactor consisting of a plasma reactor and solid state water electrolysers with oxygen ion or proton conducting membranes. One aided benefit of this proposed approach is that both technologies, i.e. water electrolyser and plasma activation, utilize base molecules (N2 and H2O) and can be directly powered by renewable electricity. Such a scheme may be a stepping stone to zero carbon footprint processes. Moreover, the advantages of proposed approach will be also compared to conventional plasma catalysis or pure plasma processes.
Richard van de Sanden is the director of the Dutch Instute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER since 2011) and a Professor at the Department of Applied Physics of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He received his Ph.D. in 1991 from the Eindhoven University on a fundamental plasma physics subject. In 1990, he was appointed an Assistant Professor, his main interest being the fundamentals of plasma enhanced deposition and etching. During 1992-1997, he was a Research Fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, he was appointed as a full-time professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Since his appointment at the DIFFER institute he focuses on the physics and chemistry of plasma-surface interaction under extreme conditions and on research into the direct and indirect conversion of renewable energy into fuels and chemicals.
In 2008 he has won the European William Crookes Plasma Prize. In 2009 he was awarded the Valorisation Prize for his achievements in transferring scientific knowledge to industry. Since 2013 he is a member of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2014 he won the Plasma Prize of the AVS Plasma Science and Technology Division for his career achievements. In 2017 he became a fellow of the International Plasma Chemistry Society. In 2018 he won the Lloyd Thomas prize of the Rarefied Gas Dynamics community (2018).
He has authored and co-authored over 500 papers in peer-reviewed journals and is the co-inventor of > 20 patents. He is a fellow of AVS, IUPAC, IOP and IPCS and serves on numerous scientific committees of international conferences and (inter-)national advisory boards. He has consulted for several companies (General Electric, Fujifilm, Novellus, BOC Edwards, Linde Gas Group, Tetrapak). Since 2015 he is a senior member of the Editorial board of Plasma Sources: Science and Technology and is a member of the editorial board of Plasma Processes and Polymers, Applied Sciences and Global Transitions.
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