UofT Solar Fuels Cluster

The U of T Solar Fuels Cluster is an interdisciplinary research team devoted to developing scalable, cost effective materials solutions towards using CO2 as a chemical feedstock for valuable products. Leveraging the expertise of some of Canada’s leading chemists, engineers, and material scientists, we hope to initiate a paradigm-shifting zero-emission CO2 economy.

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Graduate Scholarships and Post-doctoral Fellowships Available

The materials chemistry research group encourages top-rank post doctoral fellows, both national and international, to apply for the elite Banting and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships to support their work in our group.

The applications can be found on the Banting and Vanier websites.

We also encourage Marie-Curie and Alexander von Humbolt fellows as well as other top rank international graduate and post-graduate scholars holding research fellowships to apply for positions in our group.

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A natural way of turning off the carbon dioxide tap, California style

It is necessary for us to build a net carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative society to counter global warming and related energy security problems. Many possible solutions have been proposed in this regard, however when the goal could be reached via any strategy is not clear yet. Recently, a new report outlined in quantitative detail the range of options, trade-offs, and costs to guide future policies in achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 for California. Through this report we might get a clearer outlook of how a cost-effective, feasible pathway could be built via existing techniques such as CO2 capture and biomass utilization, and what are the remaining challenges in the future. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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DIY Eco-Friendly Fertilizer

It is well-documented that around 0.00470757486 kg active nitrogen should be treated into per square meter soils to nourish the farms and gardens. Meanwhile do you know that each bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm converts about 7 kg of nitrogen into active nitrates? For sure human beings cannot rely on lightning to ease hunger but we can expect a solar powered lightning-mimic technique—the plasma, where a flow of gaseous N2 and O2 are electrically excited causing them to react to produce mainly NO in an arc reactor. This is not scientific fiction but is being reduced to practice by a company named VitalFluid. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Pavani, Geoff, Wei, and co-authors on their publication in Science Advances!

Oil spill happens occasionally, and its cleanup is usually challenging especially at low temperatures. Paraffin waxes in crude oil would crystallise to form a surface layer and block the liquid oil droplet inside, which decreases the capability of advanced oil spill cleanup measures, such as absorption by sponges. In this paper, Pavani, Wei and coauthors effectively resolved this challenge by coating a polyester polyurethane sponge with nanoscale silicon capped with paraffin-like, octadecyl ligands, achieving up to 99% absorption of oil from water at low temperatures. See full story at Science Advances.

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Congratulations to Joel and co-authors on their publication in Nature Communications!

Photoelectrons could initiate excited-state chemistry to enable low-temperature reactions which are kinetically prohibited at ground state. Triggering more photoelectrons is considered as the key to implement solar advantage for facile catalysis, which is usually realized via concentrating photo-intensity. However, this method suffers from the photo-saturation effect when the light intensity reaches a threshold. In this paper, Joel and co-authors demonstrate a counter-intuitive waveguide strategy to surmount the photo saturation of indium oxide catalyst by distributing, instead of concentrating, the light intensity. See full story at Nature Communications.

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Congratulations to Truong and co-authors on their publication in Nano Letters!

In this paper, Truong and coauthors developed a ternary heterostructured TiN@TiO2@In2O3−x(OH)y photocatalyst to enable broadband light absorption, effective photothermal heating and engineered charge carrier transfer. This design enables highly efficient CO2 reduction to CO with the requirement of minimum amount of expensive component In2O3−x(OH)y. See full story at Nano Letters.

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Congratulations to Alex Tavasoli and coauthors on their publication in EES!

Transforming the greenhouse gas into fuels via sunlight has attracted great interests recently, but where are we and where should we go for a solar fuel refinery? To answer this question, Alex, who is the Co-founder and CEO of the solar fuel spinoff Solistra, analyzes the remaining technical challenges associated with the commercial application for dry reforming with coauthors. It is discovered that many photocatalysts reported in literatures have activity merits high enough for potential implementations while major challenge lies in chemical engineering such as the design of photoreactor. See full story at EES.

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CO2 photocatalysis sees the light of day

Recently, Dimensional Energy, a spin-off company from Cornell University, has designed, built, and tested, a pilot-scale photoreactor for making chemicals using just carbon dioxide and sunlight, no additional heating or electricity is needed. As shown in the photograph, the setup consists of a tracking system, which collects and concentrates sunlight to the wave-guide reactor where the CO2 is catalytically converted to carbon monoxide or methanol by a In2O3-xOHy catalyst. This pilot reactor is now tested at a CO2 emitting coal-fired power-plant located at Gillette, Wyoming, USA to compete for the prestigious Carbon XPrize, a step closer to the vision of the solar fuel refinery. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations Dr. Mireille Ghoussoub and Professor Geoffrey Ozin, The Story of CO2 has been named in The Hill Times’ List of 100 Best Books in 2020!

It is with great delight to announce that the book, The Story of CO2: Big Ideas for a Small Molecule, by Dr. Mireille Ghoussoub and Professor Geoffrey Ozin has been named in The Hill Times’ List of 100 Best Books in 2020! Available for order here.

About the book: The climate crisis requires that we drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions across all sectors of society. The Story of CO2 contributes to this vital conversation by highlighting the cutting-edge science and emerging technologies – a number of which are already commercially available – that can transform carbon dioxide into a myriad of products such as feedstock chemicals, polymers, pharmaceuticals, and fuels. This approach allows us to reconsider CO2 as a resource, and to add “carbon capture and use” to our other tools in the fight against catastrophic climate change. See also an introduction and story by the Faculty of Science and Art, UofT, the Story of CO2 describes a groundbreaking solution to the climate crisis.

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The art of materials science and teaching online

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the traditional forms of education, and both students and teachers are forced to adapt to a new normal of online teaching and learning. Multiple surveys indicate that students feel more stress in front of a camera than sitting in a classroom. The remote teaching also poses challenges to teachers who need to make a qucik transformation to explore and experiment with unconventional ways of knowledge transfer. In this article, Professor Geoffrey Ozin shares his thinkings, experiences and suggestions relating to the new paradigm of teaching and learning based on his long and colorful career in materials science. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which we teach, but it doesn’t have to be all bad” he said, with highlights on his new stress-easing evaluation method of being oral rather than written by the help of 3-5 power-point slide presentations in 3-5 minutes with 5 minutes of questions and answers. He also encourages more online interactions to compensate the lost positivity of the socio-educational student-teacher experience. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Tingjiang Yan and co-authors on their publication in Nature Communications!

In their work, Yan et al. reported an atomically-precise single-atom Bi doping method to modify the photochemistry of surface frustrated Lewis pairs (SFLP), where the isomorphic replacement of the Lewis acidic site In3+ ions in In2O3 by single-site Bi3+ ions greatly increased the efficiencies for solar absorption and charge-separation. This subtle materials chemical engineering strategy remarkably increases the photothermal CO2RR activity by three orders of magnitude. See full story at Nature Communication.

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