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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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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Human Intelligence and Experiential Learning in Materials Discovery

We have arguably reached a point in the evolution of materials chemistry where the discovery of a brand-new material or novel material property is rare. Although there will, of course, always be the occasional eureka moment, current materials research is mainly focused on the design of self-assembled material architectures that yield specific properties to satisfy the function required of an application. An inevitable question in today’s technological context, however, is the role of artificial intelligence in the materials research process. Can AI be trained to accomplish tasks and practice continual learning, intuition, and creativity, in a manner that matches or even supersedes human intelligence?

The full article can be read on the Advanced Science News website.

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Green Steel: Coupling Steel with Methanol Production

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the steel industry accounts for close to 30% of the direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the industry sector, which corresponds to 7% of the global CO2 emissions (data for 2014). At present, steel mills reduce their carbon footprint mainly through incremental efficiency upgrades designed to cause minimal disruption to its output; however, new research is showing that strategies focused on valorizing and utilizing CO2 may present an economic opportunity with significant environmental benefits. Michael Bender and coworkers at BASF SE, Ludwigshafen in Germany, have recently reported a techno-economic analysis for six different CO2 emission reduction scenarios in steel manufacturing.

The full article can be read on the Advanced Science News website.

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Congratulation, Alex Tavasoli, on being selected as a finalist in the MaRS Women in Cleantech Challenge!

The University of Toronto Solar Fuels Group is proud to announce that Alex Tavasoli has been selected as a finalist in the national Women in Cleachtech competition, hosted by MaRS Discovery District and Natural Resources Canada. Alex’s proposed company, “Solistra”, offers a greenhouse gas (GHG) to fuel technology that converts waste CO2 and methane into syngas using solar energy and novel, nanostructured, light-activated materials.

The Women in Cleantech Challenge seeks to identify top female innovators from across the country who are developing technologies to tackle the world’s most daunting energy and environmental challenges. Of the hundreds of applications received, 10 semi-finalists were invited to deliver their pitch live to a public audience and prestigous jury, amongst which included Margaret Atwood.

The finalists will now participate in an intensive 30-month business accelerator program, with support valued at $800,000, before competing for the $1-million prize to invest in their business.
The full list of finalists can be viewed at: https://www.womenincleantech.ca/semi-finalists/.

More information about the technology can be found here and here

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Celebrating 50 Years of Materials Research and Still Searching

The GAO Materials Research group was delighted to host a highly interdisciplinary, intellectually stimulating, and heartfelt symposium on Saturday, August 25th, in honour of Geoffrey Ozin’s 75th birthday.

Friends, family, colleagues, former students, and current group members gathered, from near and far, to celebrate the creative innovations, life-long friendships, and passion for research that Geoff has fostered over his 50-year career. The spirit of the day is best captured by Geoff’s opening words, “Let’s appreciate the moment, let’s relish the memories, let’s rise to the future, and let’s have fun today on a very special birthday of three quarters of a century.”

Thank you especially to speakers, Ludovico Cademartiri, Jennifer Chen, Yadong Yin, Mark Wilson, Hong Yang, Mark MacLachlan, Wendong Wang, Ben Hatton, and Todd Siler, for stimulating our brains and hearts with their kind and inspirational words. Thank you also to organizers Wei, Sue, and Chenxi for their commitment to organizing such a successful event. Finally, thank you to all who attended for making the day truly special.

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