As the energy crisis deepens and not only affordability but the security of supplies has become a major concern , how we store the renewable energy we produce in Scotland has come into even sharper focus.
A £250,000 research project that aims to achieve a world first by using a plasma electrolyser to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into hydrocarbons for energy use is underway with scientists at the University of Aberdeen.
If successful, the researchers say that the method could enable the use of renewable energy for the efficient conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons, while revolutionising approaches to decarbonising heavy industry – one of the key challenges in the energy transition.
Professor Angel Cuesta Ciscar explained:
“The energy transition requires technologies for efficient energy storage and conversion or to enable the decarbonisation of industrial processes, and this is where electrochemical processes can play a crucial role.
“But while these processes are inherently energy efficient, they’re often still not efficient enough to overcome cost barriers.
“There is a potential solution to this, where a reaction would be induced applying a voltage between two electrodes in a weakly ionised gas, resulting in the reduction of CO2 and the oxidation of hydrogen.
“This combination of plasma-catalysis and electrocatalysis has the potential to enable efficient conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons driven by renewable electricity, thereby contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases and to a fairer and more sustainable transition to a net zero.
“Despite the wide research interest in plasma-catalysis this approach has never been attempted, and our research will require technical and scientific breakthroughs to deliver its aims.
“While challenging, there is the exciting potential to develop a device that could play a crucial role in the creation of a circular fuel economy with a positive impact for the environment and for jobs in the energy sector.”
The project – Electrocatalysis in non-thermal plasma for energy storage – is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It is one of ten projects announced today by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that are designed to support the development of adventurous ideas for new materials, devices, fuels and technologies in support of the UK’s ambition to achieve a net zero society by 2050.