About the Multidisciplinary Seminar Program

Created in 1995, the Escola Tecnica Superior d'Enginyeria Quimica (ETSEQ) at Universitat Rovira i Virgili aims at becoming an international reference in chemical engineering education and research. The ETSEQ is located in an area that is socially and economically very dynamic, and that is home to one of the most important centers of chemical industry in southern Europe.

The Multidisciplinary Seminar Program is both the seminar series for faculty and researchers in the ETSEQ, and a mandatory class for its graduate students. The Program aims at inviting leading international researchers working on areas that are of interest to faculty and researchers in the School.

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Next seminar (Jan. 26, 2018)

New challenges in solar fuels production by artificial photosynthesis (Víctor de La Peña)

Location: Aula 102, ETSEQ
Start time: 12 p.m.


An interesting route for the valorization of CO2 and H2 production consists on its photocatalytic conversion into fuels and/or chemicals in the presence of water and suited photocatalysts [1]; this process is also known as Artificial Photosynthesis (AP). This is a quite challenging process since CO2 and H2O are highly stable compound and their transformation involves a series of multi-electron reactions in combination with light management. In this sense, extensive efforts have been made to develop efficient catalytic systems capable of harvesting light absorption and reducing CO2 to valuable products especially when using water as the electron donor. However, this process suffers from very low quantum yields and non-selective product distributions, due to the complexity of the involved multi-step reactions. Therefore, the design of efficient photocatalysts aims at achieving an expanded light absorption and a better charge separation to improve the overall photocatalytic performance.
The design of efficient photocatalysts aims at achieving an expanded light absorption and a better charge separation to improve the overall photocatalytic performance. In this sense, several modification pathways of semiconductors have been performed to improve the reaction efficiencies. Such modifications include tailoring of the band structure, doping with metals and non-metallic elements and deposition of metal nanoparticles, among others [1-3].
On the other hand, extensive efforts must be devoted to shed light on mechanistic aspects of the reaction such as the influence of traces of organic species adsorbed on the catalyst. To clarify the effect of different parallel and competitive reactions in the activity and products distribution, photocatalytic experiments must be combined with operando characterization techniques and theoretical calculations.
Herein, we report different strategies and modifications photocatalysts to increase process performance. Among them, an interesting approach to improve charge separation in photocatalytic systems is the use of heterojunctions. In this line, the combination of different semiconductors with noble metal nanoparticles or organic semiconductor polymer leads to separate the photogenerated charge carriers and thus increase their life time, facilitating charge transfer to adsorbed molecules. Finally, to achieve a successful photofuels production it is necessary to tackle the challenge in a holistic manner that identifies and solves the barriers and needs inherent to large-scale development. In this sense, it is crucial to advance on the fabrication and scale up of photocatalytic materials using techniques that provide uniform and pure films with high deposition rates and short processing times. In addition, to achieve an efficient scale-up, it would be necessary large areas preparation procedures and adequate solar photoreactors.
1. V. A. de la Peña O’Shea, D. P. Serrano, J. M. Coronado, “Current challenges of CO2 photocatalytic reduction over semiconductors using sunlight”, in Molecules to Materials—Pathway to Artificial Photosynthesis, Ed. E. Rozhkova, K. Ariga (Eds.), Springer, London, 2015.
2. L. Collado, A. Reynal, J.M. Coronado, D.P. Serrano, J.R. Durrant, V.A. de la Peña O’Shea, Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 178, 177, 2015
3. F. Frenso, P. Jana, P. Reñones, J. M. Coronado; D. Serrano; V. A. de la Peña O’Shea. Photobiological Sciences. 16, 17.

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