As the society’s need for energy is increasing, climate change points towards the need of finding sustainable renewable energy sources. Biogas holds the potential to replace natural gas as energy carrier, thus reducing the reliance on fossil fuels while introducing renewables as drop-in solution to existing infrastructure. However, existing technologies for the removal of carbon dioxide from biogas are energy intensive and considerably decrease the overall efficiency of biomethane as energy carrier. The aim of the project Porous Ionic Liquids for Sustainable Energy (PILSEN) is to improve the energy efficiency of biomethane production from biogas while lowering the carbon footprint. We will achieve this by capturing carbon dioxide during the purification of biogas and using it as a source of carbon. We propose to develop a versatile chemical platform for carbon dioxide removal from biogas, together with the subsequent conversion to value-added chemicals. This chemical platform will be based on porous ionic liquids, which are a new and promising class of materials for processes involving gases. Preliminary results confirm that porous ionic liquids show carbon capture performances similar to benchmark technologies allowing for simultaneous capture and utilization with minimum energy cost. The design flexibility and low environmental impact of ionic liquids bears great potential for the tuneability of our chemical platform. Hence, we will combine theoretical and experimental approaches to identify porous ionic liquids suitable for carbon capture and conversion including the energy-efficient isolation of products.
Since the discovery of the first exoplanet, a gaseous giant planet, two decades of an extensive planet hunt led to an amazing inventory of close-by planet systems. Among these planets a substantial number are slightly larger than Earth but are still expected to be rocky. No similar object exists in the solar system and little is known about them. One interesting aspect is to determine the habitability of these exotic planets and if life could develop there. It is therefore important to determine what is the structure of the deep interior of these planets and if it can generate a protecting magnetic field. In the proposed project, the fellow plans to develop a set of state-of-the-art ab initio simulations of iron-nickel mixtures to study the properties of these materials at high pressure. These materials are likely to be dominant in the core of Super-Earth but it is unclear if the pressure-temperature conditions are compatible with a solid core surrounded by a liquid and conducting phase as expected to be favorable for magnetic field generation. The fellow will focus on the phase diagram of these mixtures up to 1 TPa. He will also explore the transport properties in order to better constrain the possible scenarios of convection and magnetic field generation. Based on these results, the fellow will build evolution models of Super-Earths to be compared to the discovered exoplanets.