Posts Tagged ‘Catalysis’

Interview with Michele Aresta, Initiator of ICCDU and Member of the International Committee

This year’s ICCDU is the 17th edition of the event. What were your expectations when you started this series?
ICCDU was started after two Summer Schools funded by NATO on “CO2 as Carbon Source, 1986” and “Reaction Mechanisms in Enzymatic and Model carboxylation and reduction reactions based on CO2, 1989”.  The ICCDU Series was started for being the international forum where the scientific community working on CO2 conversion could meet. And this has been ICCDU since its start.

How would you describe the first ICCDU – was this more an academic discussion, or did you already envision concrete applications?
Surprisingly, in the 1980s there were already practical applications in the field of polymers from CO2 (Al-based catalysts) which went on stream. The scientific discussions already covered other themes such as CO2 reduction, photocatalysis, synthesis of fine chemicals, polymers such as polyurethanes and polycarbonates and so on. What people do today was well known in the 1980s. The interest in CO2 chemistry was at that time boosted by the“oil crisis” (1973, 2000s).  Climate change was not yet a serious issue. The low cost of oil has decreased the interest in CO2 conversion in the 2000-2010s. Now the push comes from climate change, a completely different motivation.
The scheme below was developed in 1987: it presents the vision I had about CCU 30 years ago:

 An Integrated approach to CO2 Utilization, M. Aresta, NATO ASI Series 1989.

The routes to go were very clear to me at that time! We are running now along those paths.

How has CCU (not the conference, but the technology) evolved since the first ICCDU? What expectations were met, what not? And did unexpected develpoments occur?
As I wrote in a paper published in JCOU in 2013 “The changing paradigm in CO2 conversion”, the availability of cheap PV-H2 makes possible today the exploitation of CO2 reduction to energy products, that did not make sense in a fossil-C based energy frame as it was in the 1980s. And this is a big step towards “circular economy of C”.

What is special about ICCDU compared to other events on the topic of CCS and CCU?
ICCDU is a scientific forum and gathers scientists from usually 35+ countries. In 2015 we had over 40 countries present. It is a global conference that has since a few years opened up to policy makers and industrialists: this is a must these days.

From your personal point of view, what are you looking forward to most at this year’s ICCDU?
In future years ICCDU will be more and more inclusive and will sustain the development of new science and technology in the direction of implementing a circular C-economy by integrating CO2 conversion, biotechnologies, and biomass utilization. Integration of biotechnologies, catalysis, photocatalysis is essential for CCU. Synthetic photochemistry is a key step. Integration with nature is essential. Learning from nature is our future.

What will, from your personal point of view, be the „next big thing“ in CCU?
Direct co-processing of water and CO2 for developing an “Economy based on CO2 and water”! This is the title of my most recent book published with Springer and this is my vision since ever.
CCU is cycling Carbon. CO2 is renewable carbon: one can cycle it again and again as Nature does. This is the basis of bioeceonomy: CCU is integrated with the Bioeconomy concept. We should not make the mistake of keeping biomass utilization and CCU apart! They must be integrated.

Join ICCDU 2019 in Aachen and discuss the opportunities and applications of carbon capture and utilization with experts from research and industry from all over the world!


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The catalysis community not only does great research and enables more than 80 % of the products we use in daily life, it’s also very communicative. If you didn’t participate in the 52th Katalytikertagung from 13-15 March 2019 in Weimar, here is what you missed:

Looking forward to the Katalytikertreffen

Here we go!



… celebrations…

… and fun!

Coming up next…

Where will we meet again? At EuropaCat 2019 – 14th European Congress on Catalysis, EuropaCat 2019, to be held in Aachen,Germany,
from 18 – 23 August, 2019.

  • The major European Conference in the field of catalysis
  • More than 1500 participants from industry and academia
  • Around 200 lectures and 1000 posters
  • Young Scientists meet experienced experts to discuss future challenges in catalysis
  • Attractive social programme with excursions and EuropaCat party
Learn more at http://europacat2019.eu/

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The 51st Katalytikertagung (German Catalysis Meeting) took place in Weimar from 14-16 March 2018. Whether you missed it or want to revive your memory, we have created a little review from the tweets:


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Print„New records in renewable electricity generation“ – „Wind and solar yesterday covered lion’s share of energy demand” – media and the internet are not short of success messages on renewable energy generation. Peaks in energy supply are so high that up to 5 billion kWh of renewable electricity have to be cut off per year because the grid cannot accommodate it.

At the same time, Germany struggles with meeting its climate goals due to the ongoing emissions from coal power plants that are needed in order to ensure the energy supply on windless nights.

The existing storage capacities such as pumping plants and reservoirs are limited and in Germany almost exhausted. Battery technology is being pushed, but scalability is restricted and the consumer uptake of electric mobility is slow. Moreover, in order to level out summer/winter fluctuation in renewable energy generation, long-term storage is required.

Therefore, researchers and industry are looking for alternatives. “Power-to-X” is one of the hot topics of the day – a vision moving towards application. The basic idea: Unused electricity is used to produce chemicals that can be stored without significant loss and can either be reconverted to energy or used as a basic resource for the chemical industry. This is more than just a technological innovation – it will change businesses and value chains fundamentally, as Jonas Aichinger, Mainzer Stadtwerke AG, explains: „Convergence of previously separated sectors like electricity, gas, mobility and industry link these markets and can be realized through Power-to-X technologies“

The “traditional” conversion path of electricity to energy-rich substances is the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen has multiple potential uses, making it a flexible and versatile energy store, especially as it can – at least to a certain limit – be coupled with existing gas infrastructures. So far, however, the technology is not competitive. Projects such as HYPOS – Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany e.V. are taking up the challenge to find the most cost-efficient pathway and create a showcase by combining technological innovations and existing networks and infrastructure.

“The energy conversion will only succeed with hydrogen”, says Dr. Bernd Pitschak, Hydrogenics GmbH – and hydrogen will play a key role in the ongoing transformation of the energy system. But current “Power-to-X” concepts take the approach one step further: They use renewable electricity to produce not only hydrogen, but by drawing on CO2 as an additional readily available resource, they synthesize methanol or more complex molecules such as synthetic fuels. This could provide the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: By producing carbon-neutral fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from the mobility sector could be drastically reduced long before the onset of the era of electric mobility.

Even if all passenger cars should one day rely on batteries, there still remains the challenge of heavy-duty vehicles and aviation. Says Benedikt Stefánsson, Carbon Recycling International in Iceland: “Transport presents the most difficult challenge in decarbonization as only certain segments of urban mobility can be electrified with batteries, leaving long-distance driving, heavy goods transport, marine and aviation dependent on liquid transport fuels.“ And Patrick Schmidt, Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik GmbH, adds: “There is a real risk that any efficiency improvements in aviation will be overcompensated by aviation’s growth. For long-term greenhouse gas emission mitigation in aviation the use of sustainable carbon-neutral fuels is indispensable. […] For a robust strategy to manage energy transition in the transport sector a dual approach is required: the electrification of drivetrain/propulsion systems, and the electrification of the primary energy basis of fuels.”

What sounds so easy in theory, however, poses big technological challenges: The conversion of CO2 requires a lot of energy and/or highly sophisticated catalysts. Many chemical companies such as Covestro or BASF are putting a lot of effort in the development of these catalysts – and with success. MicroEnergy follows a different approach, using hydrogen as “feed” for methane-producing microorganisms. Methane, like hydrogen, can be fed into the existing natural gas grid. As Thomas Heller, MicrobEnergy, describes: „Renewable electricity turns into primary energy and has to be integrated into all other energy sectors in order to fulfil decarbonisation targets. This does not consequently lead to an all-electric society, but rather to a high demand of storage systems and sector coupling applications like Power-to-Methane is.“

If these technologies become successful – and experts certainly expect this to happen – an unexpected challenge might arise: So far, CO2 conversion technologies depend on punctual sources. One day, if CO2 conversion is a standard addition to any CO2 emitting plant, CO2 might actually become a scarce resource. The Swiss company Climeworks is setting forth to address this problem: They have developed a technology to capture CO2 from air and are aiming at capturing 1 % of global CO2 emissions from the air by 2025, says Dr. Jan Wurzbacher, Managing Director.

But is the success of Power to X technologies up to engineers and scientists alone? No, say experts almost unequivocally. Dr. Ralph-Uwe Dietrich, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V., warns: „Without strong political authority the market introduction of power-to-X will not start.“ And Dr. Max Peiffer, AssmannPeiffer Attorneys, adds: „The current energy legislation does not provide a proper framework for Power-to-X-systems. The legislator needs to implement changes.“ Marcus Newborough,
Development Director, ITM Power plc., points out „the urgent need to place a value on having ‘renewable gas’ in the gas grid and for policymakers to establish a framework that enables the roll out of power-to-gas systems“

Power-to-X technologies require the cooperation of different sectors. The PRAXISforum Power-to-X  brings them together. Be part of this exciting story and join the PRAXISforum Power-to-X (18-19 October 2017, Frankfurt)

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