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Current projects

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Methane conversion into platform molecules over solar cells under ambient conditions

The goal of this proposal is to elaborate a new energy-efficient solar-driven chemical processes for conversion of abundant renewable and alternative methane reserves into chemicals under ambient conditions. Recent advances in solar cells and photocatalysis open up new possibilities to combine these two technologies for the development of sustainable and eco-friendly photocatalytic systems utilizing solar radiation and operating at room temperature and moderate pressure. A strong focus will be on the design and elaboration of photocatalysts showing higher product yields as well as the understanding of the photo-induced processes at the interface between solar materials and methane and elucidation of catalytic mechanisms of the methane selective chemical conversion. The target products of methane photocatalytic conversion are ethane or carbon monoxide. Ethane is a feedstock for industrial synthesis of light olefins, while carbon monoxide is an important platform molecule for manufacturing a large variety of chemicals such as acids, esters and alcohols.
Le consortium SolarMethaCell est composé de deux équipes de recherche ayant compétences complémentaires dans la conception, la synthèse et la caractérisation des cellules solaires, ainsi que dans la catalyse, la chimie des molécules C1 et les mécanismes d'activation du méthane.

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Development of Embryonic Zeolites for Efficient Conversion of CO2 to Dimethyl Ether and Light Olefins

CO2 hydrogenation is one of the most interesting reactions to fight against the greenhouse effect because it allows the synthesis of renewable fuels, such as dimethyl ether (DME), and base chemicals, such as light olefins. Typical bifunctional catalysts for these reactions are mostly based on zeolites mixed with a metal or metal oxide to transform CO2 via the intermediate formation of methanol. Unfortunately the use of crystalline microporous zeolites induces strong transport limitations between the active (metal and acid) sites, leading to low productivity and the synthesis of undesirable side products on the strong acid sites. The objective of the present project is to solve this problem by using embryonic nanozeolites of very small size (3-5 nm) with scalable porosity and acid site properties, which will then be combined with a metal to form a new type of composite catalyst. The improved accessibility of these catalysts as well as the synergy created between the metal and acid sites with optimized acidity will allow a more efficient and effective transformation of CO2 into DME and light olefins.

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Femtocatalytic Photoconversion of Methane

The conversion of Methane into more valuable chemicals and fuels has been identified as a win-win strategy towards a decarbonated industry and for the reduction of the green-house-gas. Methane is an abundant compound, that is considered as a climate bomb but, fortunately, that also constitutes a huge reserve of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The direct thermal conversion routes of methane are suffering from high energetical cost and low selectivity. Thus developing low temperature strategies is of great importance. The photo-assisted conversion of methane offers a promising approach to directly transform methane to valuable energy sources under mild conditions, but these researches are still at an early stage, and the catalytic performances achieved experimentally are still far below the requirements for industrial production.
PulseCoMeth aims to go beyond the state of the art by investigating an innovative strategy for the photoconversion of methane based on a synergetic thermo-catalytic activation using ultrashort laser pulses. Toward this aim, an interdisciplinary consortium of chemists and physicists is built by gathering the expertise of LASIRE (femtochemistry), UCCS (methane photocatalysis), LCS (porous material chemistry) and IPR (material multiscale photodynamics). The main goals of PulseCoMeth are (i) the elaboration of multifunctional nanomaterials with dual photocatalytic and photothermal activities (ii) the investigation of photoactivation and photothermal processes by ultrafast pump-probe spectroscopy, and (iii) the establishment of the catalytic performances (selectivity and efficiency) of this femto-catalytic solutions for the photoconversion of methane.

TAKE-OFF "Production of synthetic renewable aviation fuel from CO2 and H2"
Horizon 2020 programme
Ref: 101006799




Aviation is one of the most challenging sectors when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions. One of the reasons is that common alternatives such as electrification or hydrogen propulsion, are not expected to be a suitable substitute to kerosene for long haul flights in the coming decades. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from non-fossil resources is the only approach that could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to air transport in the near term. Launched in January 2021, the EU project Take-Off, Production of synthetic renewable aviation fuel from CO2 and H2, will, in the next 4 years, generate a detailed picture of the technical, environmental and economic performances of their promising power-to-liquid SAF production route. This project will contribute to reduce the aviation’s carbon footprint and reach several sustainable development goals (SDGs 7, 9 and 13). Take-Off will enable the development and industrial validation of the complete technology chain from CO2 to SAF. This technology route aims to deliver a highly innovative process which produces SAF at lower costs and higher energy efficiency compared to other power-to-liquid alternatives. The TakeOff route consists of capturing CO2 from industrial flue gas which reacts with hydrogen produced by renewable electricity to create light olefins. These light olefins are subsequently chemically upgraded into SAF. All innovative steps upgrading CO2 will be demonstrated under industrially relevant conditions.
The project consortium, led by TNO, gathers partners coming from the entire technology chain ranging from a leading energy supplier (RWE Power), power and energy solution company (Mitsubishi Power Europe), interdisciplinary research institutions (TNO, CNRS, RWTH, SDU), design/engineering companies(AKEU, FEV) and the European Association representing the Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) community in Europe (CO2 Value Europe). Pioneer and global leader in sustainable SAF, SkyNRG isinvolved to analyse the fuel quality and report on itssuitability for usage in aircraft. A strong advisory board including key players of the aviation industry and major oil & gas companies has been assembled to support the project consortium, guide the research and ensure the uptake of the lessons learned.

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“Operando” 3D Multiscale and Multi-technique Catalyst Probing

The goal of the MULTIPROBE project is to develop a new methodology for the in situ and operando characterization of catalysts based on a unique combination of transmission electron microscopy and X-rays techniques, including 3D and environmental TEM, EELS spectroscopy, macro- and micro-scale X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), and hyperspectral imaging. All these characterization tools have been already used individually for the analysis of the catalysts in working conditions, but their association on the study of a catalytic system in very similar conditions, with also a common methodology of data analysis and global conceptualization of the main findings, is unprecedented. Our approach is: i) multiscale, allowing to cover scales from mm to sub-nm, by combining averaged information deduced from the macroscopic study of different zones of the catalytic bed, to that obtained locally over the catalyst nano-grain, for elucidating the role of the structural speciation and spatial heterogeneities; ii) multi-selective, providing morphological, structural and spectroscopic information on the various elements present on the catalyst; iii) in situ, time resolved and operando, as the experiments will be performed under conditions of pressure, temperature and gas concentration which are representative of the catalytic processes, with quantitative information on the activity and the selectivity of the catalysts.
This combined methodology will be used to provide a complete insight on the evolution under realistic reaction conditions of promising catalysts for light olefin synthesis from CO2 and CO. The recently developed data analysis approaches based on machine learning methods will be used for the data analysis
From a general point of view, this combined multiscale, time-resolved and multiselective approach proposed by the three partners (IPCMS, SOLEIL, UCCS), as well as the strategy of data analysis, will provide a correlation between chemical descriptors in the course of reaction and catalytic activities, in order to propose a direct relation between the microstructural properties of the catalyst and its performances, and could be subsequently applied to the in-situ study of a wide range of catalytic materials for CO and CO2 hydrogenation.

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SolarMethaChem (ANR Solar-Driven Chemistry)
Solar Light-Driven Processes for Methane Photochemical Conversion

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Direct conversion of methane into fuels and platform molecules has been for a long time a “holy grail” in chemistry. The high C-H bond energy, absence of functional groups and of the polarity result in a very low methane chemical reactivity.
The major goals of the SolarMethaChem are i) the nanoengineering of new efficient materials for efficient oxidative coupling of methane to ethane and higher hydrocarbons, ii) identification of the reaction mechanisms of methane coupling and iii) optimization of the photochemical reactor and operating conditions.
Three research groups in France (CNRS-UCCS), Finland (University of Helsinki) and Poland (Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry PAS) with complementary expertise in catalysis, materials science and modeling will carry out the project. 


E2C (Interreg 2 Seas)
" Electrons to high value Chemical products "

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The overall objective of the project is to stimulate investment in and implementation of Power-to-X technologies by developing innovative direct and indirect conversion processes for the chemical industry towards higher TRL’s, while making use of renewable electricity and lowering the carbon footprint. With these technologies, valuable fuels and platform chemicals can be produced from renewable raw materials while decreasing costs and increasing flexibility. The aim is to develop at least two pilot demonstrators at TRL 6 – 7 and two bench scale pilot installations at TRL 4 with supporting feasibility evaluations, thereby lowering the risks of investment for companies, especially SME's, and positioning the 2 Seas region as an innovation leader in Power-to-X sustainable technologies.


NanoConfinement (I-SITE Université Lille NORD France)
Nanoconfinement for production of platform molecules from biosyngas with enhanced selectivity

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The bio-sourced platform molecules manufactured from biomass, used plastics and organic waste are supplying sustainable solutions for reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases and for growing energy demand. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is a technology that converts renewable feedstocks via biosyngas (H2-CO) to liquid fuels and chemicals.

The present proposal, which will be performed jointly by the UCCS and UMET laboratories of Université de Lille, provides two different but complementary strategies for selective conversion of biosyngas to sustainable high octane gasoline and value-added light olefins by designing novel catalysts containing confined metal nanoclusters

The first strategy is based on the controlled confinement of active sites and consequent shape selectivity effects arising from positioning active metal nanoparticles within the porous structure of zeolites and carbon materials. The second strategy involves catalyst functionalization via incorporation of acidity and addition of promoters. A combination of catalytic tests under industrial conditions at the high throughput RealCat platform with advanced characterisation using a state-of-the-art FEI TITAN 3 THEMIS 300 transmission electron microscope and other imaging methods will provide new insights into the atomic scale structure-performance correlations, which have been unachievable so far. The methods for producing alternative fuels and olefins from renewable feedstocks will give substantial economic benefits andreduce greenhouse gas emission and dependence of France and Europe on imported and polluting sources of energy.

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