Tuesday, October 19

UA researchers imitate plants to achieve “green” fuel

This line of research is part of the Prometheus project financed by the Generalitat, from which they have raised 90,000 euros a year to hire two doctoral researchers and buy material. “Plants obtain hydrocarbon chains, cellulose comes from Co2 that they convert using water. We take Co2, we use water, and we convert it into those molecules that we can use as clean fuel both in vehicles and in homes, ”explains Cazorla.

Since methane is the most important component of natural gas, when this fuel is burned “as is the Co2 that you have used and which you use for another, the final emission is zero.” It is one of the uses of Co2 in which they work to convert that molecule into a fuel. “The molecule has carbon and two oxygens, and if you convert it into another one of carbon and hydrogens, you get the fuel, methane.” With his line of work “we convert Co2 into a useful compound based on what plants do with their photosynthesis. It consists of doing something similar to plants, taking the CO2 and turning it into a hydrocarbon using sunlight. And to speed up the process, because photosynthesis in plants is very slow, “using artificial leaves we obtain the gas that we can use as fuel. A very difficult job because plants take up very little Co2 at the end of the day, they grow very slowly, but if the speed of our work is not appreciable it would not make sense either, hence we try to understand how plants do it to speed it up ». They have designed the reactor that uses a chemical to mimic the leaves, in which they deposit the material they are developing. “The Co2 leaves converted into clean gas,” concludes the professor.

“The big difference with Japan is that they really bet on science there”

Javier Fernández Catalá | Doctor in the Carbon Materials and Environment Group at the University of Alicante

Javier Fernández Catalá ALEX DOMÍNGUEZ

Dr. Fernández Catalá defended his thesis in a non-present way, recently decreed the confinement as a result of the coronavirus. It was one of the first in Spain to be held remotely.

The Malaga court at his home, the Netherlands court also at home, and before them also at a distance, Javier Fernández successfully defended his thesis on a project for the synthesis of catalysts for the oxidation of volatile organic compounds and the generation of hydrogen sustainably who worked in Japan.

Is it another world to investigate in Japan?

No. It is true that the group was very good and had many resources in terms of photocatalysis, the line that interested me, but at the research level we are also doing very well here. Perhaps the big difference is that there is a real bet on science. Here we have one or two lamps and there four. They are also specialists in a subject, it is the big difference.

What is the key to your current research?

The most important thing for us is to try to replicate nature because it is very efficient. Opening a line of research like this that can replicate what the plant works requires to study a lot to try to understand how it works, and thus be able to know what processes happen in our catalysts. That’s what motivates me the most.


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