Carbon dioxide as a raw material source

Project CarbonCat

Photocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide into basic chemicals

High performance LEDs
© Sahlmann Photochemical Solutions
Synthtetic diamond
© Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides – greenhouse gases suspected of being co-responsible for global warming. With nearly three-quarters carbon dioxide represents the most significant part of the emissions. Even though the carbon cycle is virtually closed when using biomass for energy production, the utilization of generated CO2 is a highly topical sociopolitical question. In case of a successful utilization, especially when applying alternative sources of energy such as wind energy, hydropower or solar energy, the eco-balance can sustainably be improved. The “CarbonCat” project aims for the pioneering development of a microreactor system by which the potential of novel catalyst materials shall be evaluated for the innovative utilization of CO2 and exploited for future applications.

The basic principle

For the targeted conversion of CO2 high-power LEDs will be used in combination with a novel, predominantly carbon-based photocatalyst in a microstructured reactor system. At long sight the consortium, made up of the Fraunhofer IMM, the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and the company Sahlmann Photochemical Solutions, technologically aims at coming as close as possible to nature inspired photosynthesis while exclusively using sunlight. Instead of plant cells with their photosynthetically active chloroplasts we will use a newly developed micro reactor containing a diamond-based photocatalyst as photoactive material. The special construction of the micro reactor allows a continuous mixing of CO2 and water under radiation with visible light.


Besides the technological part of the work the chemical optimization of diamond as a photocatalyst will be playing a key role. The selective functionalization of diamond surfaces with complex organic compounds is anything but simple, especially with respect to the long-term stability when being used in a continuous process as intended by the consortium. In addition to the reactor technology and the catalytically active surfaces the selection and the adequate mixing of the required wavelengths as well as the arrangement of the LEDs are of vital importance. The interaction between the light source and the other system components deserves the greatest attention. This is as relevant for the photocatalytic process as for the overall efficiency of the reactor. Ultimate goal of the project CarbonCat is the development and provision of a demonstration plant which converts CO2 into valuable chemical C1 components, such as methanol, under conditions that are as similar as possible to natural conditions.

Our research & development services

We offer to our customers the development, construction and production of customized milli- and microstructured flow reactors from laboratory scale up to pilot process. We complement the implementation of novel materials such as polycrystalline diamond or cubic boron nitride by our microstructuring technologies and thus allow for the viable combination with micro-process engineering. Our research and development work will be applicable in the fine chemical electro- and photochemistry.


Funded by: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funding code 033RC009A.