Plasma Solar Fuels Devices

The main goal of PSFD research group is the efficient production of high energy density fuels or intermediates such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas by plasma assisted conversion. Plasma-driven energy carrier conversion has great potential for upscaling since no rare materials are required, high power densities can be obtained and is compatible with the intermittent nature of sustainable sources.

As convenient as gasoline, but as green as batteries: solar fuels are synthetically produced fuels using solely renewable sources of energy and feedstock. Such fuels rely on storage in chemical bonds to achieve a high energy density. CO2 and water are two promising sources for the carbon and hydrogen, the main constituents of all hydrocarbon fuels. Since CO2 and water are available in abundance on the planet, a renewable and CO2-neutral fuel cycle on a global scale is in reach.

The CO2-neutral solar fuel cycle relies on renewable energy and reuse of carbon dioxide

Towards a society fueled by renewable energy

The widespread addiction of the world to fossil fuels is not only just a matter of a large energy footprint. The underlying need is really energy on demand. A prerequisite for large scale adaption of renewable energy sources which is generally overlooked is in fact economical energy storage and transport. The primary enabler for wide scale adaptation of renewables is therefore not cheap production of renewable energy but rather technology to make this energy available wherever and whenever it is needed. The transition from centralized fossil-powered energy plants towards intermittent (fluctuating) and geographically spread renewable sources in terms of both transport and storage comes with a number of challenges. This is where the potential of solar fuels in a renewables-driven energy landscape comes in. High density energy carriers can be used for temporary storage or as a substitute for current fossil fuel-based infrastructure such as the Dutch natural gas grid.

Alliander, one of the Dutch power grid operators, is researching deployment of the existing Dutch natural gas grid for transport and storage of renewable energy sources on a regional and national scale. DIFFER collaborates by developing the essential ‘power to gas’ solar fuel conversion technology.