Present energy needs are classified into two main sectors: a) production of electricity; b) production of reactant and fuels for chemical industry and transportation. We focus our interest on the use of clean, no cost and abundant sources like sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide for photovoltaics and artificial photosynthesis. In the MIB-SOLAR and FLEXILAB labs, containing an ISO7 clean room and state-of-the-art facilities, we investigate materials and devices for artificial photosynthesis and photovoltaics.
We apply the molecular approach to design and investigate dyes and catalysts for artificial photosynthetic processes, namely water splitting and reduction of carbon dioxide. Water splitting is able to produce hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel or reactant in chemical industry. The reduction of CO2 affords a number of 1C strategic chemicals and fuels, such as HCOOH, CO, CH3OH and CH4.
Two main approaches are used: a) photocatalysis; b) phoelectrochemical cells (PEC). In particular, we focus our attention on dye-sensitized photocatalysis and PEC (DS-PEC) where the key component is a molecular antenna-dye able to efficiently absorb sunlight on the surfaces of n- and p-type high band gap semiconductor oxides such as TiO2 or NiO.
The final target is an integrated device based on low-cost earth-abundant starting materials: the artificial leaf.