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Photo-electrochemical conversion of CO2 to fuels

This activity aims to develop catalytic materials for photo-electroreduction of CO2 into clean fuels, such as methanol. The work involves the synthesis and characterization of anodic and cathodic materials at the Sotacarbo laboratories, in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical, Chemical and Materials Engineering (DIMCM) of the University of Cagliari. In particular, a photoanode-driven PEC cell is considered in which a metal is used as cathode and the lowering of the cell voltage is obtained from the photopotential generated at the nanotubular structure of TiO2 n-type semiconductor, irradiated by a suitable light wavelength. Moreover, to improve the final photocatalytic performance in the near visible range, surface modification by tungsten oxide has been attempted.

The experimental activities are carried out in the photo-electrochemical laboratory, recently set up at the Sotacarbo Research Centre and in the laboratories of the University of Cagliari.

Different electrochemical techniques, both in continuous and alternating current, have been adopted in order to derive information on the processes. In particular, cyclic voltammeteries, linear sweep voltammetries and electrochemical impedance spectroscopies (EIS) have been performed. Based on experimental results, a mathematical model of the process has been implemented, in order to quantify the effect of operating parameters on the reaction and its products. The results will make it possible to optimize both cell configuration and potential or current applied values.