EAGER: Photo-Thermo-Chemical CO2 Reforming of CH4 by Concentrated Sunlight
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The study will explore the combined heat- and light-driven reaction of two greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be used to generate fuels or chemicals while decreasing levels of greenhouse gases. The unique aspect of the work is that the heat and light will be used simultaneously via a solar collector/heater to activate the carbon dioxide and methane reaction more effectively than by either heat or light alone. The approach has potential to be used in remote or small-scale applications such as biogas generators or landfills where conventional fuel sources are not available. The reaction between methane and carbon dioxide requires significant energy input to both activate the reactants and provide the thermodynamic driving force required for the endothermic reaction. Sunlight provides a means to a favorable energy balance. By use of a properly designed solar collector, optimized in wavelength and intensity to provide both direct photon activation and secondary thermal activation, the study will address the combined effectiveness of thermal and photonic energy input to drive the carbon dioxide - methane reaction. This will be one of the first studies of its kind, and should provide important guidance into the relative effectiveness of the combined approach versus either thermal or photocatalytic approaches alone. In addition, the study will develop catalysts that are specifically designed to utilize both thermal and photon energy sources, and it will also explore the mechanism of the combined photo-thermo-catalyzed reaction. If the approach is successful, it could open the door to more catalytic reactions that could benefit from the combined thermo-photo approach. These types of approaches rely on the sun for energy, and thus present a path to a more sustainable energy future as well as a means of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or upgrading greenhouse gases to useful products. The concept also fits well with treating gases in remote locations or from small-scale gas sources, where solar collectors and reactors can be utilized in modular form without the need for ancillary power sources.