Project GRF 606813

Title: Materials for an "artificial leaf" for solar fuel production

PI: YEUNG, King Lun

Award: HK$465,918



The rapid depletion of resource and accelerating degradation of the environment are the two most important challenges that face humanity in the coming decades. Energy extraction, generation, conversion and use from nonrenewable fossil fuels are the major source of pollution and greenhouse gases. There is growing consensus in the scientific community that the ever increasing amounts of CO2 generated has created an imbalance in the Earth’s natural carbon cycle resulting in their accumulation in the atmosphere. It is recognized that CO2, an important greenhouse gas, is the main culprit behind climate change which not only affects the global economy, but also threatens the environment. Communities and individuals’ health and quality of life are projected to suffer as climate change spurs extreme weathers and emergence of new pathogens.

CO2 capture and sequestration in geologic and oceanic storages has received supports from many governments as a viable strategy for CO2 emission reduction, albeit a costly and unsustainable solution for the long-term. A more viable and sustainable approach is the revalorization of CO2 into raw materials for production of fuels and chemicals. Today, CO2 is consumed in the production of urea used in fertilizers and plastics, salicylic acid used in pharmaceuticals and polycarbonates plastics. However, the demand for CO2 would be considerably larger if it can be converted into fuel. The purpose of this project is to explore new opportunities in engineering and material innovation for CO2-to-fuel conversion in an “artificial leaf” powered by energy harvested from the sun. The outcomes will create considerable business opportunities, reduce pollution and at the same time provide energy security for the future.