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14 december 2018

Approved FOM programme

Number 155.
Title Photosynthesis of nanomaterials: developing nanostructured photocatalysts for solar fuel generation using light (PHNA)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Dr. E.C. Garnett
Duration 2014-2019
Cost estimate M€ 1.5

This programme will use nanophotonic resonances to precisely control where and how light is absorbed within nanostructures in solution. This will allow us to:
(1) understand spatially-resolved photocarrier generation, heating and interfacial transfer; (2) drive chemical reactions at specific surface sites using both photocarriers and optical heating; and (3) synthesize complex, hierarchical nanomaterial photocatalysts with improved efficiency for solar fuels conversion reactions.

Background, relevance and implementation
There is an urgent need to move the world's energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewable resources. Although photovoltaics and wind power could act as a source of clean electricity, 86 percent of the world's energy usage involves a chemical fuel (e.g. via combustion for heating or transportation). Therefore, any transition to a cleaner energy source requires the development of renewable fuels.
Nanomaterials suspended in solution can act as stand-alone solar reactors, where every particle includes different parts for light absorption, charge separation, oxidation (OEC) and reduction catalysis. Such a colloidal reactor scheme has represented an ideal water-splitting system (to produce clean hydrogen) for more than thirty years but has not yet been realized with high-efficiency largely due to insufficient control over the synthesis of complex nanomaterials. In this programme, we will take advantages of optical resonances in metallic, semiconducting and hybrid nanomaterials to create strong nanoscale gradients in temperature, pressure and electric fields. We will then use these light-induced phenomena as the driving force for both the synthesis of more complex hierarchical nanomaterials and for better control over the fuel generation reactions themselves.
The programme will be carried out by two groups: Garnett will combine his experience in nanoscale synthesis and solar cells with Baldi's expertise in high-resolution electron microscopy and in-situ characterization. Therefore, this programme connects AMOLF's light management for photovoltaics focus group with DIFFER's emerging photoelectrochemistry programme.
The ability to synthesize and assemble complex nanomaterials in solution for printing on low-cost substrates like plastic, opens up a new path to ultra-low cost, high performance energy conversion, storage and manipulation devices. Although the primary focus here is on solar fuels, we expect that many other applications that require precise control over light, heat and charge at the nanoscale could also benefit greatly from this research.

This programme was installed to make a connection between solar fuels research at DIFFER and the work on nanostructured materials in the FOM focus group for fundamental energy research 'Light management in new photovoltaic materials' (LMPV, nr. 131) at AMOLF.
This FOM programme is part of the NWO proposition 2014 – 2015 for Dutch Topsector Energy.
This FOM programme will be subject to a midterm evaluation which will be combined with the midterm evaluation of the FOM focus group for fundamental energy research LMPV (nr. 131). The final evaluation will consist of a self-evaluation initiated by the programme leader and is foreseen for 2019.