Solar to fuels conversion technologies: a perspective
Author(s)Tuller, Harry L.
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To meet increasing energy needs, while limiting greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades, power capacity on a large scale will need to be provided from renewable sources, with solar expected to play a central role. While the focus to date has been on electricity generation via photovoltaic (PV) cells, electricity production currently accounts for only about one-third of total primary energy consumption. As a consequence, solar-to-fuel conversion will need to play an increasingly important role and, thereby, satisfy the need to replace high energy density fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives that remain easy to transport and store. The solar refinery concept (Herron et al. in Energy Environ Sci 8:126–157, 2015), in which captured solar radiation provides energy in the form of heat, electricity or photons, used to convert the basic chemical feedstocks CO[subscript 2] and H[subscript 2]O into fuels, is reviewed as are the key conversion processes based on (1) combined PV and electrolysis, (2) photoelectrochemically driven electrolysis and (3) thermochemical processes, all focused on initially converting H[subscript 2]O and CO[subscript 2] to H[subscript 2] and CO. Recent advances, as well as remaining challenges, associated with solar-to-fuel conversion are discussed, as is the need for an intensive research and development effort to bring such processes to scale.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Materials for Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Tuller, Harry L. “Solar to Fuels Conversion Technologies: A Perspective.” Materials for Renewable and Sustainable Energy 6.1 (2017): n. pag.
Final published version