The consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels in Spain is approximately 86%, a fact that contrasts with the scarcity of our national reserves of these fuels. Therefore, it is urgent to develop new technologies that will allow the transition to a safe, sustainable and clean energy system. Among the different options, the use of solar energy to produce hydrogen from water by photocatalytic processes is very promising because solar energy is an inexhaustible source of renewable energy, and solar radiation in Spain is very high. Despite the simplicity of the concept and its promising technical feasibility, the photocatalysts known until now render too low hydrogen production yields in the range of sunlight to meet the large-scale industrial requirements, which complicates bringing these technologies to the market. In this project, I propose a new strategy to develop photocatalytic processes capable of generating hydrogen using sunlight. I intend to design a new generation of photocatalytic processes based on doped three-dimensionally ordered macroporous (3DOM) TiO2-based materials that combine the photocatalytic hydrogen generation with the photooxidation of oxygenated organic compounds, which act as sacrificial electron donors. The slow photon effect phenomenon that takes place using these TiO2-based photonic crystals will boost both photogeneration of electron-hole pairs and localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) effect over metal nanoparticles. Ultimately, this project intends to combine photocatalytic water splitting with remediation of water containing organic pollutants. To do so, I propose a novel approach based on designing a modular, continuous photocatalytic reactor based on heterogeneous solid-gas reactions, as an alternative to the conventional solid-liquid heterogeneous photocatalytic systems. I expect that merging the fields of 3DOM TiO2 materials and microreactors will lead to improved photocatalytic efficiencies in an unprecedented manner. This new microreactor configuration offers a scalable design that will allow developing future commercial applications of this technology. In addition, I plan to conduct a series of experiments at ALBA Synchrotron facility, in order to study the mechanism of the photocatalytic reaction and reformulate the photocatalyst, in order to obtain even better performances. For all the ideas above outlined, I feel that I am the best candidate to perform this project. I am a senior postdoctoral researcher specialized on heterogeneous catalysis for energy applications. During my research career, I have been working on the design, preparation and characterization of advanced nanomaterials, in order to use them as catalysts and photocatalysts for many applications, spanning from hydrogen production processes, to chemically powered nanomotors and environmental applications. After 15 years studying numerous catalytic systems, here I present an innovative project that represents a real new turn-of-the-screw in the sustainable production of hydrogen.
Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica y Técnica y de Innovación 2017-2020
Programa Estatal de I+D+i Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad