Like all other industries, the chemical industry is currently in the transition from the use of fossil fuels to sustainable energy. The Interreg LUMEN project focuses on the sun as the source of sustainable energy. Within LUMEN, the partners are working intensively on a technology concept that will enable sunlight to be used directly as a ‘fuel’ for sustainable chemical processes.
As part of a significant research task in the Lumen project, together with Zuyd Hogeschool and Innosyn, EcoSynth focuses on the development of photochemical conversions with relevance to a future sustainable and sunlight-driven industry. Nano-sized catalyst materials built from controlled deposition of ruthenium metal on a ceramic platform like aluminum oxide, as developed by TNO and UHasselt/Imomec, are used as advanced photocatalytic species to accelerate specific target reactions. Such include oxidations of biobased materials for example in view of synthesizing valuable fine chemicals or production of renewable fuels.
Within the project scope, efforts are carried out to understand underlying chemistry of these newly-developed ruthenium species. Particular attention is paid to the mechanism of the oxidation reaction in an attempt to further optimize photocatalytic performance. Impact of size, shape, and oxidation state of the Ru-based nanoparticles is investigated, for which advanced spectroscopic techniques are applied. Among these, electron paramagnetic resonance assists in assessing the optimal wavelength under which the nanoparticles reach maximum oxidation efficiency. Besides that, careful analytical resolution of reaction mixtures finally determines how these catalytic species enhance selectivity towards desired final products, which eventually minimizes the formation of undesired fractions and waste material.