26. 03. 2024

A prestigious project of the European Innovation Council aims at the development of a new generation biofuels

An innovative approach for the production of advanced biofuels, which responds to the global demand for sustainable energy and reduces dependence on fossil fuels, is to be the result of the prestigious European project GlaS-A-Fuels: Single-Atom Photocatalysts Enhanced by a Self-Powered Photonic Glass Reactor to Produce Advanced Biofuels.

The project has been funded by the European Innovation Council with 2,995,840 euros. In addition to the teams from Germany, Italy and Greece, one of the partners of the project are also scientists from the Materials-Envi Lab of the Centre for Energy and Environmental Technologies at VSB-TUO.

The research will be carried out by an international team of experts from different fields, including chemistry, physics, materials sciences, catalysis and laser technologies. The main objective of the project is to use technology that converts waste bioethanol into advanced biofuels such as butanol and hydrogen. These biofuels have a high energy content and are compatible with current engines and fuel distribution infrastructure.

For the conversion of bioethanol into butanol and hydrogen, we will use solar radiation as a source of energy and single-atom catalysts that will accelerate and control the chemical reaction. The innovation also lies in the design of a photonic glass reactor that uses light and a thermoelectric module to increase the efficiency of bioethanol conversion. Thanks to these fundamental innovations, the selective of bioethanol conversion will be significantly increased as well as the production of hydrogen as a green fuel. The low selectivity and creation of undesirable intermediates or by-products are two of the main problems of existing production technologies,” explained the head of the research team from VSB-TUO Aristeidis Bakandritsos.

The photocatalysts used so far do not yet show sufficient selectivity and efficiency in converting bioethanol into butanol and hydrogen. Scientists involved in the GlaS-A-Fuels project will use recyclable and efficient single-atom catalysts from commonly available elements to convert bioethanol.

Our role will be primarily in the development of our own catalysts, where we want to take advantage of our experience in graphene chemistry and single-atom engineering. The aim is to replace noble metals such as gold or platinum, maximize the use of solar energy and efficiently manage the chemical process towards energy-critical products such as hydrogen and butanol. We will also focus on optimizing the production of catalysts on a semi-operational scale and the technological solution of their recycling,” said another team member and Material-Envi Lab leader Radek Zbořil.

The GlaS-A-Fuels project kicked-off on 22 March in Heraklion, Greece, and will run until August 2027. It is coordinated by experts from the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL), one of the founding institutes of the Greek research network FORTH (Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas). Alongside VSB-TUO, other partners are the University of Trieste, the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden and the CORE Innovation Center in Greece.