Photothermal Carbon Dioxide Utilisation: Carbon-Neutral Synthesis of Methane

Supervisory team: Prof Rose Amal, A/Prof Jason Scott and Dr Emma Lovell

Description: With the growth in population and economy, there is an increase in energy demand for industry and domestic use. Unfortunately, the usage of fossil fuels also leads to the emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming. Nevertheless, with the increase in research focus, it is possible to convert anthropogenic carbon dioxide into fuel. Carbon dioxide utilisation, when done efficiently and sustainably, would lessen dependence on fossil fuels and also reduce the amount of CO2 emitted.

However, energy is required for this process to occur. Rather than using fossil fuel, which is basically buried sunshine, to activate the reaction, it would be a more economical and sustainable option to use sunlight as the energy source. The project aims to develop a novel and efficient catalyst for the photothermal conversion of CO2 to methane (CH4). By using photothermal reaction, the best of both areas (photocatalyst and thermal) can be combined for an effective and sustainable reaction. The methane produced can be obtained as a final product as fuel or it may be used as an intermediate for subsequent reactions. The application of this research to industry can turn anthropogenic CO2 emissions to a valuable resource and could lead to a carbon neutral process.

Photothermal conversion of carbon dioxide has only been investigated recently and thus there are numerous unknown areas to explore. The project will investigate into the development of novel catalysts for the photothermal conversion of carbon dioxide to methane. Metals will be supported on inert and semiconductor supports to increase the efficiency of the reaction and to understand the interaction between the metal and support. 

The research work is expected to contribute to the publication of a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal. From working on this project, the student will be able to gain both soft skills and technical skills. The soft skills learnt will include effective communication and presentation skills. Student will also be encouraged to attend fortnight seminars held in the research group to broaden his/her perspectives and learn about the different studies investigated by the group. By completing a research internship, the student will have the opportunity of acquiring laboratory skills and applying their knowledge to the real world challenges; hence, giving the student an advantage for their honours year and future work.
The technical knowledge learnt will include literature review, synthesis of materials, operation of laboratory instruments, characterisation of materials including, but not limited to, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscope, x-ray powder diffraction, andtemperature-programed reduction.

Suitable for: Chemical Engineers and Industrial Chemistry students. 

Level of difficulty: Challenging


For more information, contact Prof Rose Amal: