PROJECT

The SunStorage project envisages to research and develop direct and efficient conversion of sunlight into storable chemical and electrochemical fuels.

A particular highlight the project aims to achieve is the usage of a PEC device to convert sunlight into electrochemical energy in a redox flow battery (RFB), and the conversion of CO2 into CO and into MeOH.

More precisely, SunStorage aims to:

Develop a very energy efficient RFB but also to couple it with the direct solar charging possibility – this association is a breakthrough new approach to the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings EU Directive that will be enforced to all new buildings already from 2021. As such, the direct and efficient conversion of sunlight into storable chemical and electrochemical fuels is approached in two proposals: the use of a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) to convert sunlight into electrochemical energy in a redox flow battery (RFB); and solar electroreduction of CO2 into CO and into MeOH.

The use of photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells for water splitting is an emerging and promising technology that transforms sunlight into storable H2 energy. However, hydrogen is difficult to store and to transport. As such, the use of efficient PEC cells equipped with non-toxic single and tandem photoelectrodes (PE/PV) coupled with an efficient RFB for converting solar into electrochemical energy is a disruptive approach, proposed for the first time by a team member. A PEC panel installed in a residential building would be able to harvest thermal and solar energies with very high overall energy efficiency. In our preliminary approach, RFB is positioned as possibly the most suitable technology for stationary electricity storage.

The practical goals of the SunStorage project are:

  • The development of tandem photoelectrodes to give ca. 1.5 V and 4 mA/cm2, suitable for charging a RFB and for CO2 electroreduction of in the presence of H2 or H2O to CO and to MeOH; the development and optimization of the corresponding PEC cells/panels;
  • The development and optimisation of a prototype RFB of ca. 1 kW, with a current density greater than 100 mA/cm2, 80% cycle energy efficiency and suitable for 20 years of lifetime;
  • The development and optimisation of lab prototype PEC cell for direct solar charging of an alkaline RFB and for the solar electroreduction of CO2 to CO and to MeOH when H2 and when H2O are supplied to the anode and the design of an optimised system to convert sunlight into storable electrochemical energy and thermal energy for residential applications.

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