Our future energy infrastructure will need ways of efficiently converting, transporting and storing electricity from sustainable but fluctuating sources. One approach uses sustainable electricity for the reverse combustion of atmospheric CO2 into so-called solar fuels, thereby converting electricity into the chemical bonds of high-density fuels. Plasma-assisted conversion of CO2 into CO and O2 is an essential step for an exciting new approach to recycling carbon dioxide into fuels, thereby closing the carbon cycle and eliminating the need for fossil fuels.
Chemical bond breaking of CO2 molecules requires energy. In so called "high-frequency" plasmas this breaking relies on exploiting vibrational excitation in non-equilibrium conditions for charged and neutral particles in the plasma. How this mechanism works and how to obtain the maximum energy efficiency is still unclear. Other molecular plasmas in non-equilibrium conditions (hydrogen, nitrogen, methane, etc.) are of interest for both solar fuels and nuclear fusion applications (and plasma processing).
In the Computational Plasma Physics and Chemistry (CPPC) group we aim at giving insight on these plasmas, by means of numerical techniques (Monte Carlo simulations, hybrid models, chemical kinetics models) that describe the components of such complex systems, namely electrons, ions, atoms and molecules. We also collaborate with experimentalists to interpret their results and to give intuition on the physics and chemistry of plasma reactors.
A microwave plasma in CO2 (left) and a zoom in that illustrates electrons that collide with CO2 molecules eventually breaking a chemical bond (right). The plasma expands from left to right supersonically.
The CPPC group is part of the Center for Computational Energy Research (CCER), a joint collaboration between DIFFER and Eindhoven University of Technology. Read more about this collaboration on its dedicated website.