Carbon nitride for solar H2 production coupled to organic chemical transformations
University of Cambridge
Department of Chemistry
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Kasap, H. (2019). Carbon nitride for solar H2 production coupled to organic chemical transformations (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36702
Artificial photosynthesis utilises solar-light for clean fuel H2 production and is emerging as a potential solution for renewable energy generation. Photocatalytic systems that combine a light harvester and catalysts in one-pot reactor are promising strategies towards this direction. Yet, most of the reported systems function by consuming excess amount of expensive sacrificial reagents, preventing commercial development. In this thesis, carbon nitrides (CNx) have been selected as non-toxic, stable and low-cost photocatalysts. CNx are first introduced as efficient light harvesters, to couple alcohol oxidation with proton reduction, in the presence of a Ni-based molecular catalyst. This system operated in a single compartment while the oxidation and reduction products were collected in the solution and gaseous phases, respectively, demonstrating a closed redox system. In the presence of an organic substrate and absence of a proton reduction catalyst, photoexcited CNx was found to accumulate long-lived “trapped-electrons”, which enables decoupling oxidation and reduction reactions temporarily and spatially. This allows solar H2 generation in the dark, following light exposure, replication light and dark cycle of natural photosynthesis in an artificial set-up. The stability of the designed system was found to be limited by the Ni-based molecular catalyst, and the spectroscopic studies revealed electron transfer from CNx to catalyst as the kinetic bottleneck. Graphene based conductive scaffolds were introduced to the CNx-Ni system, to accelerate the rate of electron transfer from CNx to the Ni catalyst. Time-resolved spectroscopic techniques revealed that introducing these conductive binders enabled better electronic communication between CNx and Ni, resulting in significantly enhanced photocatalytic activity. To improve the solar-light utilisation and the photocatalytic performance of bulk CNx, a straightforward ultra-sonication approach was introduced. This pre-treatment was found to break aggregates of bulk CNx, and the resulting activated CNx had significantly improved activity. The activated CNx showed record activities per gram of the material used, for H2 evolution with a molecular Ni catalyst. The use of abundant waste sources instead of organic substrates was investigated in the presence of activated CNx. The system demonstrated to photoreform purified and raw lignocellulose samples into H2 in the presence of various H2 evolution catalysts over a wide range of pH.
Artifical photosynthesis, CNx, Water splitting, H2, Organic transformation, Biomass photoreforming, Photocatalysis
The financial support from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, the National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development and OMV to carry out this work is greatly acknowledged. St Edmund’s College is also acknowledged for financial support and guidance.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.36702
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