Artificial photosynthesis in micro-structured & 3D-printed photo reactors
Bachelor's / Master's Thesis
from April 2021
Background & motivation
As impressively demonstrated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C in October 2018, man-made global warming of more than 2°C compared with the pre-industrial average represents an existential threat to Earth's population. Fast and significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should be an undisputed goal of technology developments in the next decades.
Research at the Institute of Micro Process Engineering (IMVT) in the field of CO2-based synthesis of energy carriers and chemical feedstocks is therefore more current than ever. Besides the high TRL routes via electrolysis and Fischer Tropsch / Methanol synthesis, innovative photochemical routes for the conversion of CO2 with H2O are being developed at IMVT. A key task in these works is to (1) better understand and (2) increase the currently still unsatisfactory efficiencies of photosynthesis processes.
Thereby two core elements are regarded as decisive: (1) low photonic efficiencies of the available photocatalysts and (2) unsatisfactory light management in photoreactors. Past research work at IMVT focused on both aspects separately with the development of an aerogel supported indium-based photo catalyst and design of 3D-printable and high photon transport efficiency photo reactors, Figure 1.
Fig. 1: 3D printed photo reactor optics under simulated solar irradiation (left) and silica aerogel-based photo catalyst support (right).
Topic and tasks
The aim of the thesis is to merge the different developments in the field of photo synthesis of the past two years. The silica aerogel supported indium oxide-based photo catalyst shall be incorporated into a new micro-structured photo reactor that exhibits high photon transport efficiency. More precisely the tasks of the Master Thesis could be:
- Literature & patent study addressing the state-of-the-art photo reactors and catalysts
- Accompanying the manufacturing process of micro-structured photo reactors via selective laser melting and galvanic silver deposition
- Study of the influence of electropolishing / sand blasting on the surface quality & optical properties of the reactors
- Characterize the reactors optically via iron oxalate actinometry
- Development of a suitable catalyst filling / coating method for the printed and silvered reactors
- Determine performance metrics of the photo reactor-catalyst assemblies in the automated photo reactor test rig at IMVT, Figure 2
Fig. 2: Automated photo reactor test rig with solar simulator and gas chromatograph for product analysis.
For the execution, documentation and presentation of the work, compliance with the statutes of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology of Good Scientific Practice as amended on 24 May 2018 is required. The results of the investigations must be documented in written form (final report 60 pages without appendix) and presented in an institute seminar.
The work can be conducted as Bachelor or Master Thesis.
Start date: from April 2021
Language: The thesis can be written in German or English.
Supervisor: Prof. R. Dittmeyer
Advisor: M. Sc. Paul Kant