Gigawatt Electricity Storage Using Water and Rocks

The dominant technology for the large-scale storage and retrieval of electricity is pumped hydro – electrical energy. In this approach, electricity is converted to gravitational potential energy by moving water uphill and is then retrieved by allowing the water to flow downhill through a turbine. However, a new concept in gravity storage eliminates the need for hills and simply uses water pumps to hydraulically lift massive rocks in an underground shaft. The acquired potential energy is reclaimed as electricity by discharging the water under pressure though a turbine.
See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Beyond Haber-Bosch: Non-Equilibrium Photocatalysis

A recent report in which the thermodynamic equilibrium limit of the Haber-Bosch synthesis of ammonia was, for the first time, surmounted by the action of light, and could change the prevailing view of what is possible and not possible in the field of catalysis. A hetero-nanostructured photocatalyst, Fe-TiO2-xHy, which contains both a high and low-temperature site in a single structure has been demonstrated to overcome the thermodynamic equilibrium limit of the ammonia synthesis. This is possible because the exothermic ammonia synthesis process is thermodynamically favored though kinetically sluggish at low temperature; however, the exact opposite prevails at high temperature.
See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Climate Change Will Require Heavy Lifting

As the global hunger for electricity grows and the transition to solar and wind accelerates, electricity storage capacity is urgently needed to handle the challenges of scale and intermittency. Concrete solutions are needed to solve the large-scale electricity storage problem for both daily and seasonal applications, and it’s going to require some heavy lifting. A new generation of gravity batteries have emerged based on the lifting and lowering massive concrete weights. The solution may prove a viable option for storing and releasing grid scale electrical energy over periods as short as seconds to as long as months, which would represent a significant step towards renewable energy utilization.
See full article at Advanced Science News.

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A Whale of a Solution to Climate Change

Strategies to enhance the carbon capacity of the terrestrial and oceanic sinks tend to focus on landscapes – forest canopy, soil composition, and sea water chemistry. However, we must not neglect the role of animals in maintaining the natural carbon cycle. As it turns out, whales have the capacity to absorb enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Estimates place the carbon sequestering capacity of a whale to be similar to around 1000 trees with an average whale capturing up to 33 tons of CO2 over its 60-year lifetime, centuries. Efforts to re-establish whale populations, together with large scale reforestation, therefore offer a surprisingly impactful solution to meeting global emission targets.
See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Hong Wang et al. on their publication in Advanced Science, “Heterostructure Engineering of a Reverse Water Gas Shift Photocatalyst”

The paper describes a heterostructure engineering strategy that enables the gas-phase, photocatalytic, heterogeneous hydrogenation of CO2 to CO with high performance metrics. The catalyst is comprised of indium oxide nanocrystals (In2O3-x(OH)y) nucleated and grown on the surface of niobium pentoxide nanorods. Materials characterization demonstrates that the Nb2O5 support in the In2O3-x(OH)y@Nb2O5 heterostructure increases the number of oxygen vacancies and lengthens the excited state charge carrier lifetimes in the attached In2O3-x(OH)y nanocrystals, which results in a 44-fold higher conversion rate than pristine In2O3-x(OH)y selective conversion of CO2 to CO as well as long-term operational stability. Overall, the results of this study bode well for the general applicability of the heterostructure engineering approach for optimizing the performance of photocatalytic heterogeneous CO2 conversion reactions.
See full article at Advanced Science.

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SF6 Worries – The Most Potent and Persistent Greenhouse Gas

It is not well known, but the most potent greenhouse gas is, surprisingly, neither carbon dioxide nor methane, but a colorless, odorless, and inert gas known as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). With a global warming potential 23,900 times that of CO2 and being synthetic in nature (it is not absorbed on destroyed naturally), rising SF>6 concentrations are of major concern. Currently, electrical utilities and equipment are responsible for consuming 80% of the 10 000 tons of SF6 produced every year, an amount which is growing with the increasing global production and demand for renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar. Can chemists and engineers rise to the challenge of solving the looming SF6 problem?

See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Young and co-authors on their article in JACS

Atomically precise heterostrucutures present chemically interesting active sites for catalysis but are often expensive and/or challenging to synthesize. In this article, we report a synthetic strategy to conformally coating Cu atoms onto the surface of Pd/HyWO3-x by anchoring Cu(I)OtBu to the Brønsted acidic protons of the bronze. It was observed that just 0.2 at.% of Cu was able to increase the catalytic performance of CO2 hydrogenation to CO by 500%. This metal anchoring method enables atom precise modification of the surfaces of metal oxide nanomaterials for catalytic applications, circumventing the need for complex and expensive atomic layer deposition processes.

See full article at Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Congratulations to Lili Wan, Wei Sun, & co-authors on their article in Nature Catalysis

A long-standing challenge in the field of CO2 utilization is how to stabilize Cu2O, an earth-abundant, non-toxic, low-cost (photo)catalyst that can facilitate reduction of CO2 to CO against the irreversible redox disproportionation Cu2O → Cu + CuO, responsible for its instability.

Lili Wan and Wei Sun and coworkers in the Ozin group have solved this problem as reported in their Nature Catalysis paper, by modifying the surface of Cu2O nanocubes with a mixed valence surface frustrated Lewis pair (SFLP), Cu(I,II) ●● OH, which serves to eliminate the redox disproportionation. As depicted in the illustration, H2 undergoes heterolytic dissociation on the SFLP, water is eliminated to create an [O] vacancy and Cu(I) is reduced to Cu(0). Adsorption of CO2 at the [O] vacancy site drives the conversion to CO thereby completing the photocatalytic RWGS reaction cycle

See full article at Nature Catalysis.

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Congratulations to Dr. Zaiyong Jiang et al. on their paper, “Building a Bridge from Papermaking to Solar Fuels

Everybody knows the leaf makes carbohydrates and the trunk makes paper. But did you know that waste from the paper making process can make fuel from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight? Black liquor, an industrial waste product of papermaking, is primarily used as a low‐grade combustible energy source. Despite its high lignin content, the potential utility of black liquor as a feedstock in products manufacturing, remains to be exploited. In this paper, black liquor is demonstrated to function as a primary feed‐stock for synthesizing graphene quantum dots that exhibit both up‐conversion and photoluminescence when excited using visible/near‐infrared radiation, enabling solar‐powered generation of H2 from H2O, and CO from H2O–CO2, using broadband solar radiation.

See full article at Angewandte Chemie.

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Congratulations to Zaiyong Jiang, Wei Sun, & co-authors on their article in Advanced Science

In their paper, “Living Atomically Dispersed Cu Ultrathin TiO2 Nanosheet CO2 Reduction Photocatalyst”, Jiang, Sun, and co-authors report a serendipitous living photodeposition method can make atomically dispersed Cu immobilized on ultrathin TiO2 nanosheets, which can photocatalytically reduce an aqueous solution of CO2 to CO and in the process can be recycled in a straightforward procedure on becoming oxidatively deactivated.

See full article at Advanced Science.

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