Photocatalysis is a promising science for future applications which combines the topics of materials science, nanotechnology, energy research, environmental science, photonics and chemical analysis. The motivation for the current interest in this topic stems from the challenges science and society face from climate change and energy supply. Already, photocatalysis is commercially used to passively degrade pollutants. Another goal is to produce useful chemical products such as H2 for the “hydrogen economy” and other solar fuels. It is a simple, renewable, clean and cost effective technology which will play an ever more important role as the science progresses.
Photosynthesis is one of the most famous chemical reactions and it is our photocatalysis model from nature. Plants use sunlight as their energy source to convert CO2 to useful sugars and scientists hope to replicate this fundamental process in the lab. The key to achieving this goal lies in the photocatalyst materials. Our photocatalysis group investigates new materials and their properties for enhancing the rate of these photoreactions.
More specifically, our group is currently looking at water splitting and CO2 reduction reactions. Water splitting is a simple and appealing reaction which has challenged scientists for decades to achieve efficient water cleavage. CO2 reduction reactions are increasingly attractive to combat global warming by using the excess CO2 in our atmosphere to produce a useful fuel or electricity.
Titanium dioxide is one of the first and best photocatalyst materials discovered but there is a need to explore alternative materials in this emerging technology. Our photocatalysis group is looking at non-metal systems, nanosheets and hybrid materials. There is also valuable fundamental science which needs to be extended for these typical materials and everyday reactions to open up new fields of knowledge and opportunities.