Photocatalysis, a process by which a chemical reaction is accelerated via a light-induced catalytic material, is mainly used for the complete decomposition of organic pollutants commonly present in atmospheric air and industrial wastewater. Many successful real-life applications of photocatalysts have already been proven in enhancing the quality of both air and water. One example is self-cleaning coatings that have been integrated onto the surface of glass buildings. Other applications of photocatalysis include water splitting for the production of hydrogen and carbon dioxide reduction for the production of solar fuels.
The RICH center is primarily focused on investigating the application of photocatalysts for: (1) the conversion of CO2 and (2) the generation of H2. Due to the environmental concerns related to high atmospheric CO2 concentrations, photocatalysis is currently being explored as a promising solution for the reduction of CO2 into solar fuels, such as methane and methanol. Photocatalysis is also being studied for the production of hydrogen, a sustainable fuel resource, through the degradation of various water and air pollutants, including organic contaminants and H2S. In the RICH center, novel photocatalysts are first synthesized through wet-chemical techniques and are later characterized for their chemical, physical and optical properties. These photocatalytic materials are then tested for their application in CO2 conversion and H2 generation.
Some of the facilities and tools in the center related to photocatalysis are listed as follows:
- Sample preparation tools including Spin coater Chemate KW-4A equipped with hot plate, Nabertherm furnace Model L 5/11/P330, Thermo Scientific Heraeus™ Primo R Centrifuge refrigerated.
- Sample characterization tools including Shimadzu MODEL UV-2600. UV-Vis spectrophotometer equipped with reflectance accessory.
- Several photocatalytic reactors of different sizes and shapes that can operate in gas-phase or liquid-phase under controlled temperature and pressure conditions
- Variety of different light sources, ranging from UV to visible to solar, including Solar simulator by LOT-Quantum Design s.r.l.
- Gas and liquid chromatographs including Shimadzu Gas Chromatograph with FID Detector, Shimadzu Gas Chromatograph with TCD Detector, Thermo Scientific HPLC with Diode Array and Refractive Index detector.
RICH it is associated to the Masdar Institute Solar Platform, a unique environment where solar energy is coupled with different technologies at lab and pilot plant scale, including CO2 reduction and H2 production to make them more sustainable.