Synthetic Hydrocarbons offer an unsurpassed energy density per volume, can be stored safely for a long time, and can generate power and fuel vehicles using existing infrastructure. Airborne traffic and heavy duty transportation in particular are expected to rely on such fuels for the predictable future. Being able to efficiently and economically synthesise liquid hydrocarbons from hydrogen derived from renewable electrolysis and CO2 not associated with fossil fuel-based electricity production is therefore a key objective for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also helps offset the problems of fluctuating renewable power generation. Different options for "power to fuels" are considered including oxygenates or Fischer-Tropsch-Synthesis followed by conversion to gasoline, kerosene or diesel, and higher alcohol synthesis. Challenges down this road are manifold and call for a coordinated long-term research effort combining expertise in catalytic chemistry, materials science, and process technology.
Our goal is to simplify and transform today’s complex multistep processes – which are economical only on a very large scale – into modular and agile systems that can cope with frequent load changes and poor overall capacity utilisation without compromising efficiency and product quality. This requires scientific breakthroughs to fundamentally understand the relevant processes at the catalyst surface via advanced in situ diagnostics and detailed modelling. New catalytic materials are needed to enable smarter process schemes and to enhance CO2 activation. The topic also aims at highly improved reactor technologies with regard to compactness, agility and cost.
Participating Helmholtz Centers: KIT