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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Climate 21: Welcome back to a future world of green energy

This year has witnessed that a confinement of civil society did reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions but the magnitude of the effect was not much discernible from natural annual variations of atmospheric CO2. To fully mobilize on climate change and the interlocking crises we face, it is necessary to make a multilateral, comprehensive, speedy, and effective change to a green energy infrastructure for all nations. At this very moment, the U.S. government decides back to confront the climate crisis. Geoff says it is an enormous sigh of relief for the global community to read the actionable advice expounded in the U.S. Climate 21 project. See fully article at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Professor Geoffrey Ozin, Dr. Jia Jia and co-workers on your CO2 catalysis Chemical Society Review Paper!

The Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemical Society Review article entitled: “Heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenation of CO2 by metal oxides: defect engineering – perfecting imperfection  ” by Professor Geoffrey Ozin, Dr. Jia Jia and co-workers, has been selected as a 2019 top 5% highly cited papers. 

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

Indium oxide is an emerging photocatalyst for effective CO2 transformation which has been investigated extensively in our group. However, its drawbacks including limited light absorbance and high price impede the practical implementations. In this paper, Truong and co-authors demonstrate a new strategy to overcome both dilemmas by coating a nanoscale-thin indium oxide layer on a cheap, broadband-absorbance, plasmonic titanium nitride microstructure. See full story at Small.

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Chimie douce: Green hydrogen

The literal translation of ‘chimie douce’, is ‘soft chemistry’. It carries connotations of reducing the extreme conditions of temperature, heat, and pressure often associated with traditional synthetic approaches for making solid-state materials to more gentle eco-friendly ambient ones. A recent Nature Energy article reports a low temperature water-splitting protocol that uses microwave power in lieu of concentrated solar energy using similar reversible metal oxide redox chemistry to the solar thermal water splitting process. The ability to “turn-down-the-heat” on these metal oxide redox cycles has been proposed to stem from microwave-induced electromagnetic field polarization, electron and oxide ion conductivity and thermalization effects. The processes work synergistically to facilitate elimination of oxygen and formation of oxygen vacancies in the metal oxide at temperatures below 250°C. See full article at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Jiuli Guo and co-authors on their publication in ACS Catalysis!

In this work, Guo et al. use abundant and nontoxic hydroxyapatite to demonstrate high activity at a low cost by replacing constituent cations with transition metals to also enable tailoring of its catalytic properties. Using this method, the facile and scalable synthesis of a copper-substituted hydroxyapatite catalyst is presented, demonstrating its high activity in the reverse water gas shift reaction. Thorough in situ characterization using X-ray absorption and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopic methods provides unrivalled insight into both the structure of the active catalyst and the speciation of reaction intermediates. It is thus shown that this copper-substituted hydroxyapatite catalyst is an exemplary candidate for use in large-scale carbon dioxide reduction systems. See full article at ACS Catalysis.

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Congratulations to Athan Tountas and co-authors on their publication in Green Chemistry!

Fossil-free and affordable syngas routes to methanol is the focus of a version 1.0 tool for investigating prospective photochemical and thermochemical heterogeneous methanol synthesis catalysts via catalytic reactor transformation. This work presents thermochemical benchmarking data with a CZA catalyst in a continuous flow reactor. These unit operational conditions allow for more efficient CO2 utilization by improving low-temperature methanol yield and reducing capital and operating costs of process equipment. See full article at Green Chemistry.

The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Chenxi Qian for the graphical art science image.

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Congratulations to Yang-Fan Xu and co-authors on their publication in Nature Communications!

In their work, Xu et al. focus attention on an archetypal nickel phosphide, Ni12P5, with a unique surface structure based upon well-separated few-atom Ni nanoclusters. This structure allows Ni12P5 to function as an exceptionally active, selective, and stable heterogeneous catalyst for the photothermal reverse water gas shift reaction under light irradiation. The advantages of high catalytic activity and light capture are also shared by other transition metal phosphides such as Co2P. The work demonstrates how transition metal phosphides, owing to their high-performance, good stability and cost-effectiveness, offer interesting opportunities for the development of photothermal CO2 conversion technologies. See full article at Nature Communications.

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Congratulations to Dr. Qian and co-authors on their recent lithium ion battery publication in Nano Letters!

Nanostructured electrodes are among the most important candidates for high-capacity battery chemistry. However, the high surface area they possess causes serious stability, cycling and safety issues associated with the solid-electrolyte interface. In this work, Qian et al. present a completely new strategy of limiting the effective surface area by introducing an “electrolyte-phobic surface”. In this approach, the surface of the active material is coated with a chemically tethered perfluorocarbon that provides it with a unique nonwetting behavior making it impervious to the electrolyte. The concept could prove to be a general strategy for minimizing the accessible surface area of high-surface-area materials in future applications in advanced batteries.
See full article at Nano Letters.

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Congratulations to Chengliang Mao and co-authors on their recent publication in JACS!

Optimizing the kinetic barriers of ammonia synthesis to reduce the energy intensity has attracted significant research interest; however, discovering a means by which the activation barriers of N2 dissociation and NHz destabilization can be reduced simultaneously has proven challenging. In this work, Mao and co-authors demonstrate a hybrid catalyst, featuring a Fe nanocrystal necklace integrated with hydrogen-laden titanium oxide nanoparticles with cascade oxygen vacancies, that enables facile activation of N2 and hydrogenation of the N or NHz to NH3.
See full article at Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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What would a room temperature superconductor mean for the energy sector?

While superconductors are not considered an energy material, the energy savings arising from resistance-free transmission and distribution of electricity are potentially massive when considered on a global scale. Energy could also be saved by incorporating room temperature superconductors into electricity generating power plants, storing electrical energy as persistent currents in superconducting magnetic loops, employing magnetically levitated railways, using superconductor propulsion motors for maritime transport, and improving the energy efficiency of quantum computers with superconducting digital logic circuitry. See full article at Advanced Science News.

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