02 October 2018

Professor of organic electronics Magnus Berggren and his LiU colleagues have been awarded SEK 27 million for the coming five years from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to work on future technology for liquid fuels that are based on water and oxygen.

Two men wearing lab coats and hair nets smiles to the camera
Thor Balkhed

The researchers will develop an environmentally sensitive and efficient method to manufacture hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, which releases large amounts of energy when it breaks down into water and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide is currently used primarily in the pulp and paper industry as a bleaching agent, and the process by which it is manufactured is anything but environmentally sensitive.

Power paperPower paper Photo credit Thor BalkhedThe researchers at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE) have previously developed electrically conducting paper consisting of nanocellulose and conducting polymers. Nanocellulose is a nanoporous material, and 1 gram of the conducting paper, known as “power paper”, has an electrically conducting area that corresponds to 400 m2.

Recently, the researchers at LOE have discovered that organic crystals of certain dyes when combined with conducting polymers are excellent catalysts in the conversion of water and oxygen to hydrogen peroxide, using either sunlight or electricity as energy source. The hydrogen peroxide can subsequently be converted back to water and oxygen in closed fuel cells, where the chemical energy stored in the compound is converted to electrical energy.

Broad competence

“It’s pure coincidence, and a fortunate one, that expertise in the catalytic properties of dyes, electrically conducting paper and electrochemistry is found under one roof here at the LOE”, says Professor Magnus Berggren. laboratory manager.

The dyes are extracted from plants and allowed to penetrate into the conducting paper, which is then immersed in a mixture of water and oxygen. The paper acts as both anode and cathode in a process, a flow, that can be driven either directly by sunlight (photons), or by an electric current (electrons).

Professor Magnus Berggren Magnus Berggren Photo credit Thor Balkhed“In the coming five years, we will develop several types of anodes and cathodes that can be used in catalytic systems with water to form hydrogen peroxide. We will also develop an organic fuel cell that generates electricity from the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen”, says Magnus Berggren.

“Since the efficiency of the process is close to 100%, the hydrogen peroxide can also be used to store energy from renewable sources, such as wind energy and solar energy”, says Eric Glowacki, researcher at LOE and associated with the Wallenberg Centre for Molecular Medicine.

In addition to Eric Glowacki, with his expert knowledge in the organic crystals in dyes, and Magnus Berggren himself, the research group at LiU consists of Professor Xavier Crispin, Professor Igor Zozoulenko and senior lecturers Magnus Jonsson, Thomas Ederth and Roger Gabrielsson.

SEK 60 million to LiU research

In this round the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has awarded a total of SEK 640 million to 22 research projects within medicine, the natural sciences and technology, all of them believed to have the possibility to lead to scientific breakthroughs. Projects in which LiU researchers are principal applicant have received more than SEK 60 million. In addition to Magnus Berggren, Professor Igor Abrikosov has been awarded SEK 33 million to work with quantum bits in solid materials.

“We are proud and happy for the grant we have received. With its long-term investment into excellent research, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is a major factor in the ability of Sweden to take a leading place in several fields of research”, says Magnus Berggren.

Translation George Farrants


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