S2FC: the Solar to Fuel Chip

This utilization project specifically focuses onnanofabrication methods that address the immediate TBSC research need to makemicrostructured devices for direct solar-to-fuel (S2F) conversion using water as a raw material.

An S2F device has to integrate a light-harvesting unit that collects the light and leads to chargeseparation, with two multi-electron catalysts that can accumulate multiple separated chargecarriers to extract electrons from water and convert H+ to fuel. Scientifically, there are manychallenges, basically with every component of the system, and with the communicationbetween the components. These challenges relate to catalyst efficiencies, choice of target fuel (hydrogen or some other, usually carbon-based, fuel), efficiency of charge separation as afunction of photon influx and its spectral properties, etc. There exist individual solutions to allof these issues, but comprehensive device-oriented concepts are lagging behind and require:

1. the integration of catalysis and energy storage; 
2. the realization of a large dynamic range for incoming photon flux by thermodynamic optimization for long storage times of intermediates;
3. activation of the modules for light harvesting/charge separation andcatalysis when in the device, in the operational setting; and 
4. balancing of the electronic (over)potential for catalysis with the proton chemical potentials across the device to optimize the system for efficient operation, i.e. close to the thermodynamic limit.

From a broader perspective, one may make fuel from sunlight either by coupling of existing Photovoltaic technology to electrochemical catalyst systems, or by designing an integrated device that directly makes fuel from solar energy. This project targets the latter, integrated, deviceoriented approach.

The project team exists of :
• the Molecular Nanofabrication group, University of Twente Institute for Nanotechnology, which is focusing on the surface chemistry with the aim to position and immobilize the individual molecular components in the device,
• the Mesoscale Chemical Systems group, University of Twente, which focuses on the microfluidic device layout and coupling with electrodes, and
• Lionix BV, who focuses on the device fabrication.

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