Graduate Scholarships and Post-doctoral Fellowships Available

The materials chemistry research group encourages top-rank post doctoral fellows, both national and international, to apply for the elite Banting and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships to support their work in our group.

The applications can be found on the Banting and Vanier websites.

We also encourage Marie-Curie and Alexander von Humbolt fellows as well as other top rank international graduate and post-graduate scholars holding research fellowships to apply for positions in our group.

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UofT Solar Fuels Cluster

The U of T Solar Fuels Cluster is an interdisciplinary research team devoted to developing scalable, cost effective materials solutions towards using CO2 as a chemical feedstock for valuable products. Leveraging the expertise of some of Canada’s leading chemists, engineers, and material scientists, we hope to initiate a paradigm-shifting zero-emission CO2 economy.

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Putting a Spin on a Carbon Photocatalysis Spin-off

Chemicals and fuels derived from CO2 and enabled by solar power have taken the research world by storm over the past decade. However, CO2-derived fuel technologies, as promising as they may appear, are still subject to the harsh economic realities of chemical engineering. Is it possible to simultaneously achieve high photonic efficiencies all whilst adhering to the logic of economies of scale? Two new start-ups, The Solistra Corporation and Dimensional Energy, have taken on this challenge and are paving the way towards a future driven by solar fuel technology
See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Athan Tountas and Co-authors on your Solar Methanol Advanced Science Paper!

“Towards Solar Methanol: Past, Present, and Future” provides a comprehensive overview of how value-added products, notably methanol, can be produced affordably and sustainably from greenhouse gases. Harnessing light in the form of solar energy can assist is the production process in some capacity through various strategies, such as solar-thermochemical, photochemical, and photovoltaic-electrochemical. Commercially-ready technologies are compared via technoeconomic analysis, and the scalability of solar reactors is also discussed in the context of light-incorporating catalyst architectures and designs. Finally, the review offers perspective on the viability of the most promising solar methanol strategy to be applied at a global scale.
See full article at Advanced Science.

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Catalytic CO2 Reduction by Palladium Decorated Silicon Hydride Nanosheets

Congratulations to Wei, Chenxi, Govind, and Co-Authors on their New Years Eve Nature Catalysis publication in which they report on their discovery of how to make Silicon, the second most abundant element on earth, behave catalytically in the gas-phase heterogeneous hydrogenation of CO2 to CO, known as the Reverse Water Gas Shift Reaction. See full article at Nature Catalysis.

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Congratulations Mireille, Paul, Meikun on your Energy and Environmental Chemistry publication “Principles of Photothermal Gas-Phase Heterogeneous CO2 Catalysis”

Photothermal catalysis is an emerging sub-discipline of heterogeneous catalysis that exploits broad absorption of the solar spectrum to stimulate a combination of thermochemical and photochemical processes, which contribute synergistically to driving catalytic reactions. In particular, it is proving an effective and promising strategy for converting CO2 to synthetic fuels. See full article at Energy & Environmental Science.

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The Agnotology of Carbon Dioxide

In 1995, Robert Proctor of Stanford University coined the term, “Agnotology”, refering to the study of how and why we do not know things as a means of addressing the rapid dissemination of misleading, confusing, frightening and false information. Although early works in this field were focused on the understanding the ignorance around smoking and cancer risk, Agnotogy is highly relevant to the current rhetoric surrounding climate change. The reality is that CO2 emissions due to human activity are contributing to climate change and that to limit the warming from pre-industrial levels to 1.5 °C these emissions must be reduced to zero by 2050. Unfortunately, however, denial or acceptance of global warming often stems from selectivity in the search for evidence and political leaning. See full paper at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Dr. O’Brien et al. on their paper “Enhanced photothermal reduction of gaseous CO2 over silicon photonic crystal supported ruthenium at ambient temperature”

Solar-driven CO2 hydrogenation can provide a renewable source of fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at industrial scale. The paper investigates the light-driven Sabatier reaction over Ru films sputtered onto silica opal (Ru/SiO2) and inverted silicon opal photonic crystal (Ru/i-Si-o) supports. Under ambient temperature conditions, photomethanation rates over both the Ru/SiO2 and Ru/i-Si-o catalysts were shown to increase significantly with increasing light intensity, and rates as large as 2.8 mmol g−1 h−1 are achieved over the Ru/i-Si-o catalyst. Furthermore, the quantum efficiency of the photomethanation reaction was found to be almost three times larger when measured over the Ru/i-Si-o catalyst as compared to the Ru/SiO2 catalyst. DFT analysis indicate that charged Ru surfaces can destabilize adsorbed CO2 molecules and adsorb and dissociate H such that it can readily react with CO2, thereby accelerating the Sabatier reaction. See full paper at Energy & Environmental Science.

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CO2 Conversion and Corrosion: Mind the Gap

The community of scientists and engineers dedicated to the development of synthetic fuels made from CO2 is large and growing. From catalytic synthesis to reactor design, these researchers work on devising strategies to yield the most energy efficient and cost-effective CO2 conversion technologies. There exists, however, another community of experts also dedicated to working on CO2, albeit from a very different perspective: these are the scientists and engineers dedicated to the capture, purification, transportation and distribution of CO2 for either storage or enhanced oil recovery purposes. Their attention is largely focused on the important, and yet often forgotten corrosive nature of CO2 on processing equipment, containers, and pipelines made of carbon steel. Given the current trend, these seemingly disparate fields would greatly benefit by overcoming the CO2 communications gap, which appears to exist between scientists and engineers working on these problems. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Preventative Care of Our Planet: A Global Renewable Synthetic Fuels Roadmap

Synthetic fuels made using non-fossil renewable sources of energy, could make a significant contribution to achieving the 1.5 °C objective set out by the Paris Climate Agreement. While not widely recognised, technologies for making such synthetic fuels are in an advanced state of technological readiness; however, large-scale production will entail further development of several technologies, decision-making on where to locate different facilities, and the building of infrastructure to transport the fuels to where they are needed. A recent report put forth by Frontier Economics at the commission of the World Energy Council in Germany seeks to develop a dedicated roadmap for establishing a global renewable electricity to fuel industry. See full story at: Advanced Science News.

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U of T Solar Fuels Group Joins Final of the Carbon XPRIZE

The University of Toronto Solar Fuels group has recently joined C4X, an NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE finalist, in their effort to create viable carbon dioxide utilization technologies in an effort to alleviate the effects of global warming caused by atmospheric greenhouse gases.

This new partnership brings together several large emitters and technology providers, enabling a clear path forward for validation of new carbon-reducing technologies on an industrial scale. Partners include:

C4X Technologies Inc., led by Dr. Wayne Song (Toronto, ON)
PERDC of Ford Motors Canada, led by Dr. Jimi Tjong (Windsor, ON)
PolyBio Inc., led by Professor Mohini Sain from the Department of Chemical Engineering (Toronto, ON)
The U of T Solar Fuels group, led by Professor Geoffrey Ozin from the Department of Chemistry (Toronto, ON)
Walkerville Brewery, led by Neil Bishop
C4X is currently operating in Suzhou, China, and is planning to expand operations to Canada through this partnership.

The University of Toronto Solar Fuels group develops solar-driven technologies for the conversion of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into value-added chemicals and products. This opportunity to scale these technologies in a real-world setting is a major step forward in the path to commercialization of this work.

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Tuning Cu/Cu2O Interfaces for Reduction of Carbon Dioxide to Methanol in Aqueous Solutions

Selectively targeting one high value-added chemical fuel, such as methanol, from CO2 reduction in aqueous solutions remains a grand challenge. By intentionally constructing a well-defined Cu/Cu2O interface, the binding strength of surface adsorbed H* and CO* intermediates could be balanced in a photoelectrochemical reduction of CO2 in aqueous solution, leading to methanol production with an impressive Faradaic efficiency of 53.6%.

The full paper entitled “Tuning Cu/Cu2O Interfaces for Reduction of Carbon Dioxide to Methanol in Aqueous Solutions”, can be read on the Angewandte Chemie website.

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